Jay El-Leboudy spent the last 10 weeks working at a local store, all so he would buy Christmas gifts for his family.
Even though the 15-year-old worked both days and nights, he ended up with nothing after his employer informed him that the position was an unpaid internship. The British teen's parents had arranged for the position with the owners of a local Londis, and said they were shocked to find out their son wouldn't be paid at all for his work.
His mother, Zoe Buckwell, told the Canterbury Times that her son was the model employee at the store.
"Jay worked nearly every day during half term," she said (via Yahoo News). "He always made the effort to be there on time and worked way past 9 p.m., which was the time we agreed."
"Ten weeks on, when Jay was working twice a week 5:30 p.m. until 9, he hadn't received any pay. He was hoping to have his money in time to buy Christmas presents."The owner disagreed, saying that the arrangement was never meant to be paid. The owner added that Zoe knew this when she sent her son to work at the store.
"I said to her [Jay's mother] that he's only 15," the owner said. "The law says he's not allowed to work and because we sell alcohol, he's not allowed in lots of areas, but he is allowed to follow people around."
A similar case made headlines in the United States earlier this year. Caleb Dyl, an autistic teen from Rhode Island, worked at a local Applebee's as a prep cook for nearly a year but never once received a paycheck.
The story made national headlines after it was featured by local news station WPRI. The boy's parents said the state-funded Resources for Human Development set up the job for Caleb, but somewhere along the way the agencies mixed up who was supposed to be paying him.
"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 Caleb had a problem with his tax forms that initially kept him from receiving a paycheck, but thought it was cleared up.
Applebee's didn't pay an autistic employee in RI for about a year of work. @wbuteau has the troubling story: https://t.co/9WEPHDDzM3"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."
— Ted Nesi (@TedNesi) October 21, 2015
The story highlighted the difficulties facing workers with disabilities, a group the Daily Beast reports is twice as likely to be unemployed. The report found that more and more companies are starting to hire people with disabilities.
"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.
Bascom added that there is a groundswell of support for people with disabilities joining the workforce, though there is still some controversy surrounding the issue. In states like New York, many are calling for an end to the specialty work settings for those with disabilities. Known as sheltered workshops, these workplaces give them often menial tasks and can sometimes pay below minimum wage.
How to tell when your internship is really unpaid labour https://t.co/aaCHG52DpV pic.twitter.com/0taeH0aeGGThere ended up being a happy ending for Caleb Dyl. The regional management of Applebee's said they were cutting him a check for all the time worked.
— The Independent (@Independent) December 3, 2015
Jay El-Leboudy may end up with money for his Christmas gifts. His mother started a fundraiser to make up for the money he would have made, and has already gathered a few hundred dollars.