I’m not sure what to even say after that headline, because, uh...that’s not an embellishment.
In summer 2014, a Middletown, Rhode Island Applebee’s hired a 21-year-old autistic man named Caleb Dyl as a prep cook through the state’s Resources for Human Development program. After an unpaid training period* in which Dyl was described as a “tireless worker” by a work coach sent by the RHD program to make sure he was a good fit, Dyl was supposed to start getting paid in August 2014—his parents say they filled out a W-4 and a direct deposit form. Just one problem: Applebee’s never actually started paying him. For the entire year he was working there three days a week. He was apparently never even once asked to clock in by management.
When Caleb’s parents inquired as to why their son wasn’t getting paid for his work, they were told the documents had been misplaced, after which they filled out another set in November 2014. Caleb was apparently enjoying the work, so the Dyls weren’t all that concerned initially; they assumed things would get sorted out and he’d eventually be paid. Caleb’s father Bob Dyl also asked his case worker at RHD about it multiple times, to no effect—they apparently never brought it to Applebee’s, and declined to comment when the local news station that broke this story asked them what happened. Caleb finally stopped working there in July 2015.
Applebee’s doesn’t at all deny that this happened, by the way. They have, however, apologized profusely and sworn it was a complete accident—the company itself claims it had no idea about this issue until the news contacted them. A lot of you will be tempted to say that’s bullshit. As weird as this might sound coming from me, however, I actually believe them on that score.
If this had happened at a small, local place, I would expect this to be intentional. In my experience, though—8 months of which was actually with Applebee’s, a decade ago—chains are very, very careful about that sort of egregious labor violation, because they have an entire legal department telling them they need to damn well be careful about it. This isn’t even shorting servers on overtime or hourly pay, which they could theoretically hope to get away with because a lot of places do; this is actually not paying someone. Like that wasn’t going to come back and bite them in the ass at some point? Like “we didn’t pay the autistic guy who worked here for an entire year” wasn’t going to turn into a PR nightmare? Even the corporation responsible for the Quesadilla Burger isn’t that stupid.
And you might say, well, how could they possibly have been so disorganized that they wouldn’t have noticed they hadn’t paid the guy? This is a fair question! It is also a very easy way to tell someone has never actually worked in a restaurant. There are plenty of competent restaurant General Managers and Managers out there who keep close tabs on everything that happens in their restaurant. They definitely exist! They are also a tiny minority; the vast majority of GM’s aren’t able to keep track of everything going on in the restaurant, and you’d have a better chance of stumbling across a gold-plated unicorn at Safeway than locating a restaurant with both a competent GM and multiple competent Assistant Managers. If this story seems like a staggering fuck-up (and it is), do be aware that staggering fuck-ups are par for the course in the restaurant industry.
None of that excuses the shit they’ve pulled here, because come the fuck on, there’s no excuse for not paying your employee for an entire fucking year. The good news is Applebee’s has vowed to make it up to Dyl by paying him for 166 hours worked. The bad news is, according to his family, he actually worked around 350 hours, so Applebee’s wants to pay him less than half of what they owe him after not paying him at all in the first place.
Not a great look, Applebee’s, especially considering that if the Dyls did decide to sue you over this, uh...they would win. They would win very, very easily. The case would not be fun for Applebee’s, is what I’m saying here.
* Not directly relevant to the story at hand, but fuck unpaid training periods. They should be universally illegal, and the fact that they aren’t is goddamned monstrous.
Image via Ken Wolter/Shutterstock.
Contact the author at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com.