State investigating case of autistic man who wasn’t paid for hundreds of hours of work

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals is looking into how an autistic prep-cook’s paychecks fell through the cracks after he worked hundreds of hours at a Middletown restaurant, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Charles Williams, BHDDH’s director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, said the agency wants to know why Applebee’s didn’t pay Caleb Dyl, who was placed in the job by a Pawtucket-based nonprofit, Resources for Human Development.

“Right now, we are circling back to talk to the parents and to RHD,” Williams said. “We need to also understand what kind of payment is going to be made to him [by the restaurant].”

Dyl’s parents told Target 12 their son worked for free in a training program at the restaurant for about a year, until August 2014, when he was told he would be hired. The Dyls filled out direct deposit and IRS forms for Caleb.

When nothing was deposited into his account, Bob Dyl said restaurant personnel told him the paperwork was misplaced. “So, we filled it out again around November,” he said.

Still, no check – and that went on for months.

“It wasn’t about money for him, though,” Dyl said. “He liked working there. So we went to RHD a number of times and expected the problem to be taken care of.”

The Dyls say their 21-year-old son worked four-hour shifts about three days a week until he was transferred from the youth program into the adult program. That took several weeks, but he was back in the kitchen of the Middletown restaurant by last June.

By July, without any paycheck deposits, the Dyls pulled Caleb from the job.

Read the Target 12 report that sparked the state investigation »
Read the Target 12 report that sparked the state investigation »

Eleanor Clancy, a New England 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. According to Clancy, the restaurant will be mailing Caleb a check for 166 hours of work at a minimum wage rate of $9 an hour.

She said the hour total is based on RHD records.

“His job coach was there four weeks in November 2014 and seven weeks in June and July of 2015,” Clancy said, adding it still wasn’t an excuse for Dyl not getting paid.

Yet the Dyls say they’re confident their son worked more than twice as much as that, logging about 350 hours. Clancy said there are no records that Dyl clocked in, something Williams said the RHD work coach should’ve helped him do.

Back at the state government level, clarifying what was and wasn’t done for Dyl will be part of BHDDH’s investigation.

“We need to talk to them to have a better idea of what they did,” Williams said. “It’s clear what they didn’t do at this point but we need to know what they did and pretty much what they knew.”

According to Williams, about 3,800 developmentally disabled Rhode Islanders are now getting help from BHDDH, with 21 percent of them employed in various jobs. Williams added that to his knowledge Dyl’s case is unique, but he insists that’s not good enough.

“It’s only one case, but one is one too many,” Williams said.

Bob Dyl said he wants to emphasize that there is plenty of blame to go around, and that RHD has done a lot for his son.

“They have been there for Caleb,” he said.

Target 12 has emailed and called RHD several times over the past few weeks, but the agency has not returned our requests for comment.

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

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

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