Post goes viral after man with special needs fired from his job of 20+ years, franchise organization calls it ‘an unfortunate mistake’

A woman in Gaston County said her brother with Down syndrome was fired from his job at Wendy’s.
Turner turned to Facebook, posting about her brother's experience, which ushered in thousands of likes, comments and shares all expressing sympathy for Dennis.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 6:10 PM EDT
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STANLEY, N.C. (WBTV) - It is a story that’s blown up on social media.

A woman in Gaston County said her brother with special needs was fired from his job at a Wendy’s.

She told WBTV her brother had been working at the Stanley restaurant for more than 20 years. She claims the manager fired him because she needed someone who could do more jobs around the store that her brother could not do.

”I work there a long time,” Dennis Peek, the person fired, said.

Dennis said he always wanted to work at Wendy’s because of the food.

”A lot of food to eat. It’s good stuff. I love Baconator,” he said. “I love my job at Wendy’s.”

And for the last 20 years, he enjoyed every minute working his job at the burger spot.

Cona Turner, Dennis’ sister, said a manager at the Wendy’s fired her brother, just before he was set to be dropped off by a caretaker.

Turner said that manager broke the news to her over the phone.

She said Dennis wanted to retire from Wendy’s after working there so long—something he was looking forward to.

Dennis lives with Down syndrome and because of that, Turner said he could not do that specific, added work. When Turner asked for Dennis’ termination papers, she said the manager never handed them over.

Turner said it is easy to see how much this job means to her brother.

”He’s always excited to go to work,” she said. “He loves seeing people come in and speak to him. He loves to interact with the people.”

That’s why she said it was so devastating for him to get fired.

”He don’t understand if someone is coming against him,” Dennis’ sister said. “He don’t understand not being treated fair. He don’t understand none of that. He don’t…it just breaks my heart.”

Turner turned to Facebook, posting about her brother’s experience which ushered in thousands of likes, comments and shares all expressing sympathy for Dennis.

”All the comments and support for my brother…it just melted my heart,” she said.

Now, the franchise organization that owns that Wendy’s is involved. Turner said that post made it all the way up to corporate.

On Thursday, Turner said she got a call from corporate. They told her the company didn’t know her brother was fired -- and Dennis would be added back to the schedule next week.

”To me that was giving a normalcy back to Dennis,” she said. “Now is it fair? No it’s not fair at all. Should there be consequences? Absolutely. You can’t treat somebody like that.”

WBTV reached out to Wendy’s media relations team about the firing. We got a statement about the situation from the franchise organization called Carolina Restaurant Group that reads:

“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.

The Carolina Restaurant Group also answered our question about any disciplinary action against the manager that reads:

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.”

Turner said she is still deciding whether to let Dennis go back to his job or go ahead and throw the retirement party he’s been waiting for a little bit early.

“I have a retirement party. I like that,” Dennis said.

”I will not let anybody mistreat my brother,” his sister said.

Related: He reported his supervisor choking a handcuffed man. Then he was fired.