Wendy's investigates firing of autistic employee
Jacksonville Journal-Courier - 9/21/2018
Sept. 20--Fast-food chain Wendy's is investigating the termination of an autistic employee in Jacksonville who was told he was "making guests uncomfortable."
David Rain III, 18, of Jacksonville has been diagnosed as having Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum. He began working at Wendy's in May with a recommendation from the Hope Institute in Springfield.
Wendy's was an employer identified as being friendly and understanding toward those with disabilities, said David Rain III's father, David Rain Jr.
But David Rain III was fired this week.
When David Rain Jr. spoke with a member of the store's management about why his son was fired, he was taken aback by the answer, he said.
"I said, 'You fired my son. You guys are supposed to work with people like that'," David Rain Jr. said. "She said, 'Well, we have two others that came from the Hope (Institute), but he makes our guests uncomfortable.' That set off a real anger to me. It was the wrong (thing) to say."
David Rain III said he enjoyed his job and, aside from a small issue here and there, got along well with his co-workers.
When he was fired, he was told his performance was lacking, he said.
"They basically said I wasn't doing that well," David Rain III said.
David Rain Jr. said he got an entirely different story.
"Some of the things that 'make some of our guests uncomfortable' are things that someone with Asperger's might do," David Rain Jr. said. "Erratic movements, maybe they saw that. They said something about him pacing, that's Asperger's ... He's a good kid, he's just different."
Royce Simpson, divisional vice president for Pattman LLC, the owner and operator of Wendy's, responded via email to a reporter's request for comment.
"All of our team members are very important to us," Simpson said. "We are investigating this matter and will take appropriate actions."
The Illinois Human Rights Act and the American's with Disabilities Act prevent Illinois employers from terminating an individual because of his or her disability. David Rain Jr. said he hasn't pursued litigation with Wendy's but also hasn't dismissed the possibility.
Even if Wendy's offered David Rain III his job back, his father wouldn't allow him to go back to work there, David Rain Jr. said. What he hopes happens now is that Wendy's does its part to educate its workforce and ensure that something like this doesn't happen to others.
"To me, they need to be educated and the customers need to educated so they understand," David Rain Jr. said. "I told them, 'Do you ever talk to these customers and explain what's going on? Explain to them who this guy is and what his condition is? How can you help him if you don't even understand yourself?'"
Nick Draper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @nick_draper.
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