Dennis Peek Wendy’s Down Syndrome employee fired 20 years on the job cause management claimed he was no longer able to perform normal duties- ahead of upcoming retirement.
So much for loyalty and corporate greed. A North Carolina man with Down syndrome was fired from Wendy’s after two decades on the job after his manager allegedly said he was ‘unable to perform the duties of a normal person’s job.’
Dennis Peek, 51, who had worked for fast-food restaurant in Gaston County for 20 years and was planning to retire soon – only to be sacked with no notice.
The worker’s family claims the store manager told them Dennis was fired because they needed someone who could do more jobs around the store that he was incapable of completing.
News of Peek’s dismissal was relayed to the special needs employee’s caretaker as they were dropping him off to work earlier this week.
Peek’s sister Cona Young Turner says the family have chosen not to explain what happened to the former Wendy’s worker, for fear of distressing him.
Public outrage leads to Wendy’s reversing decision to fire disabled worker
She is now advocating for her brother and wants answers as to why he was fired without notice.
‘I’m out here because I need to be his voice for the way he was treated,’ Cona Turner, Peek’s sister said. ‘He don’t understand and we can’t tell him he was terminated. We have not told him and we won’t tell him.’
Turner shared her frustrations in a Facebook post that went viral, leading to Peek later being reinstated at the restaurant.
But in an update on Friday, Turner said her brother will not be returning to Wendy’s. Instead he will have the retirement party he’s always wanted. And Wendy’s will foot the bill.
Turner told WBTV that her brother loved Wendy’s and always wanted to work there – because of the food.
‘A lot of food to eat. It’s good stuff. I love Baconator,’ Peek told the outlet. ‘I love my job at Wendy’s.’
For two decades, he looked forward to his shifts and engaging with his co-workers and customers, his sister said.
Worker rights and corporate accountability
‘He’s always excited to go to work,’ she said. ‘He loves seeing people come in and speak to him. He loves to interact with the people.’
And Peek always looked forward to retiring from the place he’d been at so long – and having a retirement party.
So when her brother was fired, it was devastating.
Turner said a manager at the Wendy’s fired her brother on account of Peek allegedly no longer able to do the work. It remained unclear, what documentation, if any management had retained in a dossier proving its claim that the long time worker was no longer fit to perform their duties along with errors or complaints. And why it had only occurred to management that the long time worker who was due to receive his retirement package was suddenly unfit to perform job duties – despite seemingly being fit to perform them for 20 years.
‘He don’t understand if someone is coming against him,’ his sister said. ‘He don’t understand not being treated fair. He don’t understand none of that. He don’t . . . it just breaks my heart.’
On Thursday, Turner received a call from the Carolina restaurant group that owns and operates the Wendy’s saying he could be back on the schedule next week.
Desperate bid to save face
But in an update posted on Friday, Turner announced that her brother would not be returning to Wendy’s and that he would be getting the retirement party he’s always wanted. And Wendy’s has offered to help with expenses.
WBTV reached out and got a statement about the situation from the franchise organization called Carolina Restaurant Group that reads:
‘We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our employees and our customers. This was an unfortunate mistake and lapse in protocol; we are in touch with the employee’s family, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back to work in the restaurant.
It is unclear if the manager who fired Peek has been disciplined, or themselves now faces losing their job.
The Carolina Restaurant Group stated: ‘We cannot comment further on personnel matters, but we’re taking appropriate action. This was an unfortunate mistake that we’re working through with the team member, his job coach and family. We’re also using this as an opportunity to retrain all our teams on our protocols.’
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bans employers from discriminating against workers who are disabled.
Employers are banned from choosing not to hire an applicant who is disabled, and must also make reasonable accommodations for that worker’s disability.
Managers who wish to fire a disabled worker for underperforming must ensure they’ve followed any company policies, such as giving out warnings before terminating someone’s role.
It is unclear if Peek was given any such warnings about his work before his dismissal.