Caleb Dyl: Autistic Man Works At Applebee’s For One Year, Never Gets A Paycheck

Caleb Dyl was a dedicated Applebee’s employee, showing up for his shifts as a prep cook and not slowing until he finally clocked out hours later.

But despite showing up three days a week for almost a year, the autistic man went nearly a year without receiving a single paycheck. Now, it appears that an oversight between the restaurant and the agency that helped put the teen to work may have let his work slip through the cracks.

The case comes from Rhode Island, and made the news thank to an investigation from WPRI.

Eleanor Clancy, the Applebee’s regional director, said the restaurant never knew that Caleb Dyl was going without pay. Dyl works through Resources for Human Development, a state-funded agency that put Caleb in a program with a work coach.

After a period of unpaid work to see if Caleb could handle being a prep cook, he started working for Applebee’s as a full employee.

“We were told by RHD that Applebee’s was going to hire him, and he was going to get paid,” his father, Bob Dyl, recalled.

Bob said his son had a great reputation at the job, but a mix-up with his W-4 form prevented him from receiving checks. The family notified RHD, but apparently Applebee’s was never notified about the problem.

“RHD never contacted us,” Clancy said. “The first we heard of this was when you [Target 12] called. But this is on us. We obviously feel terrible.”

Caleb ended up leaving the job this summer, but never received a paycheck. His father said Caleb is still waiting for his pay.

Caleb’s story has now gone viral, with the report spreading beyond Rhode Island and being picked up by nationwide news outlets.

The story also highlights a nationwide issue of disabled workers. Even though unemployment has reached seven-year lows, people with disabilities remain twice as likely to be unemployed, the Daily Beast found.

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That could be changing, the report notes, with a number of companies launching programs to hire more people with autism.

“We actually see this as part of a larger, slowly emerging, and hugely beneficial trend: an increased interest in and willingness to hire people with disabilities in competitive positions,” said Julia Bascom, director of programs at the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, a disability-rights organization run for and by autistic people.”We see these hiring initiatives happening in the same timespan as federal hiring efforts, Employment First policies at the state level, and growing public dissatisfaction with subminimum wages for people with disabilities. We think that’s very encouraging.”There is also tension within many states as to the place for the disabled in the workforce. In states like New York, there are many who advocate for the end of sheltered workshops, settings where the disabled work together on often manual tasks like filling envelopes. Some disability advocates say these settings keep the disabled apart from others and often for less than minimum wage, but proponents say they are positive settings for the disabled to work and gain both confidence and a steady paycheck.

But there are still other challenges, Bascom notes.

“A job interview is often the worst way to determine if an autistic applicant is qualified for a given position. The interview is all about social communication: how good is your eye contact, how reassuring is your tone of voice, how fluent is your speech,” said Bascom. “We recommend that, rather than a traditional job interview, the company provide a more practical way of assessing a prospective employee’s skills.”

Applebee’s is now trying to make the situation right for Caleb Dyl, and said they are sending him a check for the time he worked.

[Photo by Scott Olson / Getty Images]