In a town outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, a man with Down syndrome was fired from a Wendy’s location after 20 years of employment.
Dennis Peek worked in Stanley, North Carolina, where the fast food chain is located. His sister, Cona Turner, initially shared the news of his dismissal from the site on Facebook. She wrote a post on Wednesday, October 5 that read in part: “My brother Dennis has worked at Wendy’s in Stanley for over 20 years and I am devastated to say they have fired him!!!!!!!! “
“His dream was to retire from there one day and he was looking forward to a huge retirement party, we can just give him that party and tell him he retired because he doesn’t know how to get fired!!!! !!!” she added.
Turner continued the post, writing, “They told me I was unable to perform the duties of a normal person’s job!!!! I am also looking into wrongful termination of a special needs employee, wish me luck! I am very disappointed in the management at Wendy’s in Stanley, they have no idea how they hurt my brother!”
Carolina Restaurant Group, the franchise organization that operates the Stanley location of Wendy’s, shared a statement about Peek’s resignation via email with TODAY.
“We are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for our employees and customers,” the statement reads. “This was a very unfortunate mistake and a lapse in protocol…”
After sending the initial message, Turner amended the post with an update, adding that her brother was offered his job back and could start the following week. She wrote: “My heart is overwhelmed by the support you all have given my brother and myself! Thank you all so much!!”
She shared two more subsequent updates, with the third announcing that her brother ultimately had no plans to return to Wendy’s. Turner explained: “He’s going to have his BIG retirement party that he’s been wanting.”
“Wendy’s has offered to help with expenses and anything else they can for his special day,” she added. “I feel in my heart at this point that I should do what is best for my brother. I will have more details Monday or Tuesday… Thanks again for all your love and support for my brother!”
Speaking to WBTV, a local CBS affiliate in Charlotte, Turner said a manager from the site told his brother of his termination on the phone before he was dropped off for his shift by a janitor. She said the manager fired her brother because he could not perform the extra duties required at the store.
“He’s always excited to go to work,” she said. “He loves to see people come in and talk to him. He loves to interact with people.”
After sharing the news on social media and gaining attention from the local community as well as nationally, she said the company became aware of the situation and called her on Thursday, Oct. 6. Turner said the franchise organization was unaware of her brother’s firing and that he would be reinstated on schedule.
“For me, it was giving Dennis back some normalcy,” she said. “Now is that fair? No it’s not fair at all. Should there be consequences? Absolutely. You can’t treat someone like that.” Carolina Restaurant Group told TODAY via email: “… We appreciate Dennis, have been in contact with his family, and look forward to either welcoming him back to work at the restaurant or celebrating him in a big way , if he chooses to retire.”
The company added: “If Dennis retires and ever wants to work again, we will be happy to welcome him back as well.”
This article was originally published on TODAY.com