Autistic restaurant worker goes unpaid for hundreds of hours

Worked at Middletown Applebee's as a prep cook

MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — An autistic Portsmouth man reported to work at a Middletown restaurant three days a week for about a year, but the Target 12 Investigators have learned he was never paid.

Eleanor Clancy, regional director of operations for the Applebee’s chain, said management at the Middletown restaurant was not aware of the problem until a phone call from Target 12. Clancy added that a check will be mailed to the worker, Caleb Dyl, as soon as possible.

“We have to make this right,” Clancy said.

According to Dyl’s father, Pawtucket-based Resources for Human Development, which receives state funding, placed the 21-year-old in a training program at the restaurant without pay to see if he was a good fit for a job as a prep cook. But that was supposed to change in August 2014, when Dyl was slated to start receiving minimum wage for a part-time job.

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

The agency sent a work coach with Caleb and documented that he was a “tireless worker.”

“One young man told me they were lucky to have him, that Caleb just continues to work and work and he won’t stop until the end of his shift,” his father added.

Dyl’s parents said they signed him up for direct deposit and filled out a W-4 form for Caleb, but the checks never came. The Dyls said after initial inquiries, they were told the documents were misplaced, so they filled out another set by November 2014. Dyl also said he asked Caleb’s case worker at RHD about the issue several times, but after months of his son working – still no check.

“He was enjoying the job, so we really weren’t focused on the income so much,” Dyl said. “But after that amount of time, you kind of wonder what’s going on.”

While Dyl said he told RHD about the problem several times, Clancy said the message was never passed onto Applebee’s.

“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.”

Dyl said his son stopped going to work at the restaurant in July.

RHD receives funding from the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. Linda Riley, a spokesperson for the state agency, said if Dyl was not getting paid, RHD should have contacted the state. But she added there are no records that anyone from RHD did that.

Target 12 reached out to RHD several times over the last few weeks, but we were told confidentiality regulations restrict any comment about the case.

Clancy said Applebee’s is cutting Dyl a check for 166 hours of work, based on records kept by RHD for the job coaches who went to the restaurant with Dyl. According to Clancy, Dyl did not clock in when he went to work.

The Dyls said their son did not report to work for about two months for various reasons, including state budget issues and a time period when Caleb transitioned from being considered a juvenile to an adult. They estimate their son worked about 350 hours.

If you know someone with a developmental disability in Rhode Island who you believe is being mistreated, report it by calling (401) 462-2629.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau

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