By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

GLENVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — A man with special needs says he was fired from his Jewel-Osco grocery store job just for trying to keep his customers and coworkers safe.

Now, the Glenview community is rallying around him.

As CBS 2’s Meredith Barack reported, Khaled Alayli worked at Jewel-Osco for 14 years. He says he was fired for violating store policy when talking to a customer who had harassed him for months.

Longtime customers say what happened isn’t right, and they want to help him get rehired.

“I always pushed carts outside no matter the weather, and people know that I do my job,” he said. “I’m a very good bagger, and people like me.”

People in Glenview do like Alayli.

“He’s a big Bears fan, so we always talk bears football. Always very pleasant, helpful young man,” one customer said.

So when frequent shoppers heard Alayli had been fired, they were shocked.

Alayli says a customer bullied him for months, calling him the “R” word and other derogatory terms. One mid-August incident resulted in a call to Glenview police. The customer left before officers arrived.

But during a recent visit to the store, things between Alayli and the customer came to a head.

“I’m out there helping a customer,” he said. “This guy is yelling back and forth. I tell him, ‘What are you yelling at me for? Leave me alone.’ And then he’s yelling at me again.”

Alayli says the man was upset he had asked him to wear a mask more than once while shopping.

“No matter what you have to wear a mask in our store, and he said, ‘No, I don’t have to. I’m an anti-mask wearer.’ He yelled at me. He caught me on video,” Alayli said.

He says the customer sent the video of him yelling to Jewel.

“Six days later they tell me, ‘You’re fired. We have to let you go because you did not follow Jewel policy,'” he said.

A spokesperson for Jewel-Osco said a mask or face covering is required when shopping at their stores, with a few exceptions.

“I care about the people who I work with and the people I know,” Alayli said.

The people who know him care, too. A change.org petition to get Alayli rehired has now acquired more than 1,000 signatures.

“So he basically lost his job because he was bullied and responded, which is wrong,” said one customer. “That’s why all these neighbors and people in the neighborhood are out here supporting Khaled. We thought we can help him get his job back or maybe a job somewhere else.”

CBS 2 reached out to Jewel-Osco for comment about Alayli’s firing. They said they do not comment on personnel matters.