The Internet Is Furious At Wendy's For Firing An Employee After 20 Years

When it comes to restaurants and employees, there's a very careful balance in place. While both entities need each other to survive, each side must respect and understand the boundaries set by the other. An employee is expected to follow the rules of their place of work just as the business itself is expected to treat the worker fairly. That is why when any business fires an employee for a seemingly unknown or strange reason, people start to question the business practices of that company.

For example, a 24-year-long employee of a Vancouver Burger King was fired in 2017 after taking food home to eat for herself (via CBC). The employee, who claimed she had the permission of her boss to do so, was later awarded $46,000 following the case being taken to the British Columbia Supreme Court, where her clean record and long-time service to the restaurant helped to drop any charges. In 2021, an Arkansas employee at a restaurant was fired for accepting a generous $4,400 tip, and after she was told to split it with the restaurant, she spoke out against it (via KRON 4). In a time when restaurant employees are hard to come by, perhaps firing good workers isn't the best choice.

Furthermore, can you imagine that someone with a mental or physical disability who worked at a location for many years could suddenly be fired for a completely unexplained reason?

Wendy's fired an employee with Down Syndrome

According to TODAY, North Carolina citizen Dennis Peek was an employee at a Wendy's location in Stanley — going on 20 years. Peek, who has Down's Syndrome, seemed to genuinely enjoy his work and had managed to keep himself with a steady job. It was only recently that Peek's family learned that he had been unceremoniously fired by Wendy's on the grounds that he was "unable to perform the duties of a "normal person's" job."

Peek's sister, Cona Turner, was outraged, and the New York Post reported that she posted a rant on Facebook detailing her shock and surprise that the company would fire such a longtime employee for a disability that hasn't seemed to prevent him from doing his job before. She even stated that Peek was looking forward to a retirement party and that they would have to throw him one since he "didn't understand" being fired. TMZ reports that not only is the city of Stanley preparing to throw a "retirement party" for Peek, but the Carolina Restaurant Group offered him his job back at Wendy's, which the family declined. Although Turner was understandably upset, the family later stated that they would not be seeking legal action against the company. 

Others, however, were shocked that Peek would be fired in the first place and called for accountability from Wendy's and its operating company. 

The company responded to Peek's firing

As Peek's story began to spread online, many felt outraged by the idea that Peek, a disabled individual who has worked at a job for two decades without problems, could suddenly be fired the way he was. Many believed the family should have taken legal action, even theorizing that Peek was fired to prevent him from getting retirement benefits.

"I think a happy ending would be a hefty settlement and charges against management," said one Twitter user. "They absolutely fired him so he can't retire," theorized another user. "I'll never eat at Wendy's again! Done!" protested one user. "I can't, this is horrible."

The Carolina Restaurant Group, the company that owns the Wendy's in question and the group that offered Peek his job back, spoke out, deeming Peek's firing a "lapse in protocol." Per WSOC-TV, the group claimed they were "committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our employees and our customers" and, before Peek's family declined the offer, were looking forward to welcoming him back by the beginning of the following week.

This isn't the first time a large company has been under fire for the alleged mistreatment of disabled individuals. As CNBC reports, Marlo Spaeth, a Walmart employee with Down Syndrome, was fired from her job in 2015 despite working there for 16 years — simply because Walmart refused to accommodate her schedule. Walmart was ordered to pay $125 million in damages, although this was reduced to $300,000 by the judge.