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Racial Jokes Weren’t So Funny After All

COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) - A forklift driver who was fired for making racist jokes at work sued his former employer, claiming that his black and white coworkers made such jokes, and so did supervisors.

Tony Tucker worked for Sysco Columbia from September 2004 through October 1, 2010, when he was fired. During that time, he says, his performance was "stellar".

"On numerous occasions, plaintiff and other people that worked for the defendant made jokes that were racially charged," Tucker says in his complaint in Richland County Court. "Such jokes were made by both white and black employees and were at times made in front of the plaintiff's supervisors."

In fact, Tucker says, on Sept. 30, 2010, he and two of his supervisors, Mike Jones and Jared Kelly, were engaging in just such banter where when he asked the men "Why they were sitting at the 'white table'."

Both Jones and Kelly are black.

"Jones and Kelly laughed at the joke and started to joke back to plaintiff," Tucker says. "Plaintiff, Jones and Kelly were making jokes about the KKK. Plaintiff is not a member of the KKK. Several other employees were sitting at the table and also heard the jokes."

Evidently, Jones and Kelly were not so amused. Tucker says they reported his jokes and other comments to their supervisor, who fired him the next day.

"Other people who were sitting at the table were interviewed and reported that all three individuals were making racially charged jokes," Tucker claims. "The plaintiff, however, was the only person terminated. The black employees were not disciplined for the jokes they made back to the plaintiff and were treated better than the plaintiff because of their race."

Tucker seeks reinstatement, back pay, front pay, costs and punitive damages for pretextual termination in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

He is represented by Benjamin M. Mabry of Columbia.

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