Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

I don't know whether Home Depot is run on army lines.

However, the company's adherence to the letter of its own rules verges on an odd militarism.

Perhaps that's why the company seems to feature in headlines about employees who feel they were unjustly fired.

A couple of years ago, Home Depot fired four employees who chased after a shoplifter.

The company also fired an Oregon employee who tried to stop what he thought was a child abduction. Home Depot had second thoughts, but the employee wasn't impressed with those thoughts.

Now we have the case of Maurice Rucker.

A couple of weeks ago, Rucker says he was working in the Albany, New York store and politely asked a customer to leash their dog. This, it seems, might just be company policy.

However, as the Albany Times Union's Chris Churchill reported, the customer retorted: "You're from the ghetto. What do you know?"

Rucker is black. The customer was white.

Rucker said the customer then bathed him in curses and invective.

This included telling him that Barack Obama was a Muslim and that Rucker wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for Donald Trump.

Rucker admits that, after a while, he'd had enough of this. He walked up to the customer and says he observed: "You're lucky I'm at work, because if I wasn't you wouldn't be talking to me like this."

And then Rucker was fired.

This despite the fact that the customer forgot his dog, came back to the store and abused Rucker some more.

I asked Home Depot why it had taken such draconian action instead of, perhaps, defending its employee.

A company spokesman told it had been "because he didn't follow our policy to disengage and alert management about a customer confrontation."

Similar to the instances I've described above, Home Depot's rule isn't without sense. 

But rules have to be interpreted and, yet again, here was a case where an apparently valued employee was fired for, well, being human.

The kink, of course, was that the Rucker's story reached the media. 

Just as in the case of the Oregon man, Home Depot rapidly had second thoughts. 

"We've taken another look at this and made the decision to offer Maurice his job back," the Home Depot spokesman told me.

It's not as if Rucker had been immediately fired by the store manager. He says it took five days for the decision to be made. 

It seems that the manager didn't recognize the irony of an employee being fired according to the strict reading of the rules, when that employee had been trying to politely enforce some of those very rules.

Couldn't the manager have considered the circumstances and offered, perhaps, a minor scolding and a reminder that rules exist -- at least the company would say -- for the employees' and customers' safety? (And the company's insurance policy, the dry might add.)

Couldn't the manager -- and the company -- have taken a stand against racism and shown that this sort of customer behavior wouldn't be tolerated?

It's unclear whether Rucker will accept the offer of his job back. Churchill says Rucker has already had other offers.

Perhaps, in the meantime, Home Depot needs to train its managers a little better in recognizing when rules should be enforced and how.

Excellent employees are hard to come by these days. Excellent managers, too.

Published on: Jul 21, 2018