Wendy's fires 20-year employee with Down syndrome years because he 'can’t perform tasks of normal person'

Wendy's fires 20-year employee with Down syndrome years because he 'can’t perform tasks of normal person'
Dennis Peek with Down syndrome was unexpectedly fired from his job at Wendy's after working there for 20 years (Cona Young Turner/Facebook and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

GASTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: A North Carolina man with Down Syndrome was fired from Wendy's, where he had worked for two decades after his manager claimed he was "unable to perform the duties of a normal person's job." 51-year-old Dennis Peek had been a loyal employee at Wendy's in Gaston County for 20 years. He was fired with no notice before he could retire, which he had planned to do.

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Peek's family claimed he was fired after the store manager said they needed someone to take on more store duties that Peek could not handle, the Daily Mail reported. Peek's sister, Cona Turner, said the family decided not to tell him exactly what happened because it might disturb him. "I'm out here because I need to be his voice for the way he was treated," she said. "He don't understand and we can't tell him he was terminated. We have not told him and we won't tell him."

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Turner expressed her distress in a Facebook post, and Peek was later reinstated at the restaurant. However, in an update later, Turner said he will not return to the fast food joint but will instead have the retirement party he has always looked forward to. Wendy's will reportedly foot the bill.

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"My brother Dennis has worked at Wendy’s in Stanley for over 20 years and I am heart broken to say they have fired him!!!!!!!! His dream was to retire from there some day and he was looking forward to a huge retirement party, we may just give him that party and tell him he has retired because he does not understand being fired!!!!!!! They told me was unable to perform the duties of a normal persons job!!!! I am also looking into a wrongful termination of a special needs employee, wish me luck! I am very disappointed with the management at Wendy’s in Stanley, they have no idea how they hurt my brother!" Turner wrote on Facebook. 

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"Dennis will not be returning to Wendy’s, He will be having his BIG RETIREMENT party that he has been wanting. Wendy’s has offered to help with expenses and anything else they can for his special day," she shared after Wendy's offered to have her brother back. "I feel in my heart at this point i should do what is best for my brother. I will have more details Monday or Tuesday. I am going to try to make an event page ( wish me luck) I have never done one before. Thank you all again for all your love and support for my brother!"

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Turner explained that according to the manager, the reason for firing Peek was that he was incapable of doing the work. "He don't understand if someone is coming against him," she said. "He don't understand not being treated fair. He don't understand none of that. He don't . . . it just breaks my heart."

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In a statement, the franchise organization called Carolina Restaurant Group told WBTV, "We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our employees and our customers. This was an unfortunate mistake and lapse in protocol; we are in touch with the employee’s family, and we are looking forward to welcoming him back to work in the restaurant."

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The Carolina Restaurant Group did not specify whether the manager who fired Peek was disciplined. "We cannot comment further on personnel matters, but we’re taking appropriate action. This was an unfortunate mistake that we’re working through with the team member, his job coach and family. We’re also using this as an opportunity to retrain all our teams on our protocols," they said.

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