Stephen L. Kraft was denied unemployment benefits on Wednesday by a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel in Pennsylvania because he used the N-word so much at work that two judges saw it as willful misconduct.
Kraft, who is white, was fired after telling a Black trainee driver that he Kraft was “N-word number one, a white supervisor was N-word number two, and that the trainee could be N-word number three.” He also called the trainee an “idiot”.
Kraft said, in his defense, that he had been singled out while other employees who used the N-word had not been fired. His former employer, Allen Distribution company in Carlisle, with an all-white male executive team had fired him for violating the company’s anti-harassment policy, which bans the use of racial slurs, demeaning jokes, negative stereotypes or even nicknames.
Many minority drivers talk of the “good ol boy” system that is discriminatory in terms of available jobs and contracts for minority-owned companies. Included in trucker culture: the CB radio speech, which minority drivers say is a comfort zone for unidentified racism.
The National Minority Trucking Association, supporting minority owned trucking companies and the 1.5 million minority truck drivers in the U.S., reports minorities are approximately a third of all truck drivers, and 14 percent of all drivers are Black. The NMTA assists minorities with consultation, assistance with obtaining contracts, and advocacy within the white male-dominated industry.
Senior Judge Dan Pellegrini, who sided with Kraft’s appeal of the willful misconduct decision, argued there was proof including testimonies from company executives that the company failed to fire other workers who used racial slurs. But, the overruling decision was made because Kraft’s repeated offenses created a hostile work environment.
Allen Distribution employment reviews on several job sites suggest management there could be improved. There are many complaints about human resources and management managing the work environment poorly, not training employees well, and being quick to fire people.