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Black man fired by Home Depot for reacting to ‘racist’ customer won’t accept his job back

Maurice Rucker, 60, was fired from Home Depot when he asked a customer to put his dog on a leash to follow company policy. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

After a man approached the checkout at a Home Depot in Albany, N.Y., two weeks ago, staff member Maurice Rucker asked him to leash his dog. The man exploded.

Rucker, a 60-year-old black man, garnered attention over the weekend after being fired from Home Depot for his encounter with an irate customer who hurled racist expletives at him, he said.

Home Depot told The Washington Post it initially fired Rucker for failing to “disengage and alert management about a customer confrontation,” spokesman Matthew Harrigan wrote in an email. But by Friday, the company backtracked, telling The Post it rescinded the termination and would give Rucker back pay.

But Rucker, who worked for the company for 10 years, on Monday told The Post he has no plans to return.

Home Depot’s decision “has nothing to do with me,” Rucker said in an interview. “It has to do with the media reaction to them firing me. . . . The fact they can fire me after 10 years for reacting to someone who is racist is insane.”

It took this black man years to open his lemonade stand. Then someone thought he was robbing it.

Rucker told The Post his decision to not return is largely based on his poor experiences with the Albany store. He said he felt underappreciated, underpaid and overlooked.

“I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of love for me there,” he said.

Rucker told The Post that before the July 9 encounter, he was twice written up by his superiors. The first incident happened at a previous store for poor customer service and was done in absentia, he said. Rucker said he was not alerted to this write-up until his second, which occurred at the Albany store after he threw fertilizer in the wrong trash can.

“I went to work every day thinking I could be fired. Every task I did, I wondered if I could get fired for this,” Rucker said. “There was a passive bias toward me at that particular store.”

Since his story has made headlines, Rucker said he received an outpouring of support — including from Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, who last week called him to discuss employment with the county government.

“What happened to Mr. Rucker was nothing short of an injustice,” McCoy told The Post through a spokesman.

“No one deserves to be treated with such hostility, and I was concerned with the way the situation was handled. [His] former colleagues and customers have all attested to his professionalism at work, and I look forward to meeting with him.”

Rucker, who is a musician, has started driving for Lyft to compensate for his lack of income; a GoFundMe has raised more than $3,000 for him in the past three days. Rucker told The Post he is now probing his legal options.

The July 9 incident escalated after Rucker asked the customer to leash his dog so he would be in compliance with the store’s policy, he told The Post.

“If Trump wasn’t president, you wouldn’t even have a job,” the customer said, according to Rucker’s retelling to NBC affiliate WNYT. “You’re from the ghetto, what do you know?”

The man hurled expletives and asserted former president Barack Obama is a Muslim, Rucker said.

“You’re lucky I’m at work right now because if not, you wouldn’t be talking to me like this,” Rucker told The Post he replied to the customer.

“I’m a black man, and I have dealt with all levels of racism all my life,” Rucker told the TimesUnion. “I am not going to accept racist behavior at work, home, the streets or anyplace else.”

Five days later, while he was the “cashier of the month,” he was terminated from the Albany store.

“I wouldn’t feel safe [returning to] that environment,” Rucker told The Post. “It was becoming toxic.”

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