Wake up to an early alarm, have a quick breakfast, drive to work, work a full shift, drive home, then have a late dinner before going to bed. And the next day, repeat. Pretty standard right?
Now imagine going through this daily routine for over a year, 480 work hours to be exact, without a single paycheck to account for it.
Caleb Dyl, a 21-year-old resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, did just that. Dyl was placed as a prep cook at his local Applebee’s by a social service agency. The agency, Resources for Human Development, specializes in creating services that support people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In this case, Dyl has autism.
The RHD claims that Dyl was supposed to undergo a year of unpaid training with the restaurant, but once his training ended in August 2014 he was expected to receive a paycheck.
But it was not until this month, after an investigation carried out by WPRI in Providence, Rhode Island, that the fact that Dyl had yet to receive any compensation for his work came to light.
“It wasn’t about the money for him, though,” said Bob Dyl, Caleb’s father, during an interview with WPRI. “He liked working there.”
Dyl’s hardworking spirit and positive attitude were recognized by his supervisors and coworkers alike. His work coach told WPRI that Caleb was a “tireless worker” and was an asset to the restaurant. So how is it that a mistake as absurd as this could have gone unnoticed for a year?
After reading countless articles where Dyl’s parents, RHP and Applebee’s all explain how this “mistake” came to be, I find it more and more difficult to come to terms with any of it.
First, his parents: Just having a child is an incredibly immense responsibility, but raising one with a disability like autism calls for that much more attention and care. Unfortunately, in our society, hardworking, motivated and willing young workers like Dyl are still limited. As much as we all wish this wasn’t true, it is a reality that cannot be avoided. As a parent, this sometimes means extending the traditional care of a child onto their adult years. The world is not yet built to fairly accommodate people with disabilities, and until our society gets there, family plays the crucial role in ensuring that discriminatory cases like that of Dyl do not go unnoticed.
Second, the RHP: For an association that supposedly revolves around advocating for people who typically have no voice in our society, it is difficult to believe that a year, a whole 365 days could go by without them taking any action towards fixing this issue. Dyl’s father told WPRI that he repeatedly brought the problem to the attention of the organization, who was supposed to not only inform Applebee’s but the state of Rhode Island as well. Yet they failed to do either.
Last, Applebee’s: Although the restaurant chain claims to have never been aware of the situation until the investigation was underway, this ignorance alone should raise a red flag about the way employee paychecks are being regulated.
“The first we heard of this was when you called. But this is on us. We obviously feel terrible,” Eleanor Clancy, Applebee’s regional director of operations told WPRI.
After their public apology, Applebee’s announced that they were writing Dyl a much deserved check for his work during the past year, and although the issue was resolved, the fight against discrimination of people with disabilities in the United States is far from over.