Man fired for listening to racial slurs

June 21, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore radio station has rallied behind a man who says pTC he was fired from his job at Alcon Labs Inc. in Savage last month for listening to a broadcast on the station's morning show that used racial slurs.

The disc jockeys on WIYY 98 Rock's Grego and Mo Show also are calling for its listeners to boycott Alcon's contact lens products to protest the dismissal of Nunzio Bonaccorsy, 30, of Annapolis.

In addition, they have asked listeners to write letters to Alcon's factory and warehouse in Savage and to the company's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, to complain about the firing.

But an Alcon spokesman said Mr. Bonaccorsy was dismissed because company officials did not think his "racial attitude" was appropriate, not because of his choice of radio listening.

Mr. Bonaccorsy appeared on last Tuesday's edition of the 98 Rock show, along with disc jockeys Greg Onofrio and Maurice Billington, as part of the station's efforts to find him a new job.

"It was their show that got [Mr. Bonaccorsy] fired," said Kulli Poldmae, the show's producer. "That's why the station is concerned about it."

The station's efforts apparently have paid off. Mr. Bonaccorsy started a masonry job at B&S Contracting Inc. of Baltimore yesterday. He said he had worked for the company last year.

Mr. Bonaccorsy also has taken his case to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which he said is investigating his dismissal.

Officials at the EEOC would not confirm they are looking into the case, citing the agency's confidentiality rules.

Mary Dulley, an Alcon spokeswoman, said the company regrets that 98 Rock is pursuing the boycott and letter-writing campaign. "We always take things that can harm our business seriously," she said.

Mr. Bonaccorsy was fired from his job as a distribution clerk at Alcon's warehouse in the 8800 block of Greenwood Place on May 31, five days after listening to the Grego and Mo Show, which airs weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

During a May 26 broadcast, the disc jockeys discussed a news item about a comment by a Jaguar auto executive who had referred to a Mercedes Benz as a "nigger in the woodpile."

They repeatedly used the word "nigger" on the show.

Mr. Bonaccorsy, who is white, said a black co-worker told him that he thought the show was offensive. The co-worker then turned the radio to another station. Later that day, the co-worker again told Mr. Bonaccorsy that he had been offended by the broadcast, and Mr. Bonaccorsy said he agreed not to listen to the show again.

On May 31, the first work day after the Memorial Day holiday, Mr. Bonaccorsy said he was called into the manager's office and fired.

He said the manager told him he must have enjoyed the broadcast or he wouldn't have listened to it. Mr. Bonaccorsy also was accused of referring to a Lexus as a "nigger car." Mr. Bonaccorsy denied that he made the comment.

But Ms. Dulley said Alcon officials complained to Mr. Bonaccorsy's employment agency, TAD Temporaries of Columbia, after the confrontation between the workers and that the agency then withdrew the worker from Alcon.

"He was exhibiting a racial attitude that made one of our employees feel embarrassed and humiliated," Ms. Dulley said.

Mr. Bonaccorsy, however, said that no one from TAD was involved in the dismissal. A 98 Rock press release said that the agency called Alcon, but Alcon did not give a reason for Mr. Bonaccorsy's dismissal.

TAD officials would not comment on the dismissal.

Mr. Bonaccorsy said that his dismissal came about two weeks before he was to become a permanent employee at Alcon, which would have raised his salary from $6.50 to about $10 per hour. He had been working on a three-month contract.

That morning, Mr. Bonaccorsy said, the manager was talking about hiring him. "In 5 1/2 hours, the same guy was saying 'See ya.' "

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