Memories of an unpaid janitor

Consumerist is reporting that Applebee’s in Rhode Island “forgot” to pay an Autistic line cook for a full year despite he and his parents filing the proper paperwork numerous times. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud them for hiring him, but not paying him is inexcusable!

Yes, I know people with Autism are supposed to be cold, unfeeling and incapable of empathy, but I’ve seen this shit first hand too many damned times – and I’m not talking about just freelance writing gigs (which are already notorious for not paying up – heck, The Baltimore Guardian fired me just for asking).

I was just finishing my last semester at Crafton Hills Community College and finishing the last of my requirements for Benchmark Young Adult School (now called “Benchmark Transitions”) while working about 10 hours a week for Redlands McDonalds. Unfortunately, the day before I was set to begin “real employment” for them (rather than the supposedly standard “30 day trial period” that only I was offered) I was called to the break room at the end of my shift and summarily fired for being “stupid, incompetent and the WORST damned employee EVER in [the] history of this company” (but no concrete, specific REASON for my dismissal).

Unfortunately, it took me over six months of daily searching just to get that job and it was the ONLY reason BYAS was letting me graduate. Okay, I did anyway (on Aug 9, 2001), but it was more of a “good riddance” than a “good-bye” graduation. It was also the last time I had anything remotely resembling a “friend.” No wonder I’m so damned lonely all the time.

Anyway, in order to keep my hastily arranged graduation “on-schedule,” then “Director of Student Services” Joelle Walters (also my “Primary Counselor” for most of my time there) called me into her expansive corner office to tell me she was starting me on the school’s semi-official Non-Federal Work Study type program which consisted of “assisting” in their woodshop.

It wasn’t much: 3½ hours per day, two days per week at an even $5 per hour (slightly below minimum wage at the time) but it was easy work and kept my cookie cut-I mean “custom individualized program” going as scheduled…or so I thought.

I can’t say if this is still true or not, but when I attended BYAS Tuesday was a “special” day: the day students could – barring any outstanding fines – get their weekly “money requests” from Toni (Director of Student Accounts). Most students used said money to buy cigarettes, but a fair number of us would pull our money together to buy a large pie from the small pizzeria in the plaza on the opposite site of the Redlands Blvd there in Loma Linda (the receipt going back to Toni in the office – the last time I ever NEEDED a receipt for something).

Anyway, after several weeks of working there, I went to see in the Student Accounts office as scheduled and she just looked at me blankly.

“Sorry, hon,” she said with her smooth Southern accent. “You don’t have any money for me to give you.”

“I should, I’ve been working over at Building Trades for the past several weeks.”

“I don’t know nothing about that. You’ll need to talk with Deborah about that, and then you can come back to see me.”

The whole point of both BYAS (and likely “Benchmark Transitions” as well) and its NF-WSP is to teach young adults about RESPONSIBILITY so, of course, then “Dean of Student Affairs” Deborah Kennedy would set an example for her students by resolving this unfortunate situation in a mature, professional manner befitting her position.

“I have no clue what you’re talking about,” Ms. Kennedy said in her strong Southern accent. “We don’t pay our ‘workers,’ and I know for a fact that Joelle isn’t STUPID enough to say we do!”

That was a total LIE as “work hours” was the backbone of the schools work-education and one of the chief tenants of their financial-education programs at the time.

She then goes on to chastise me for coming to her without any “documentation” of my work contract then thus surmising that said agreement was “pure hearsay.”

“That means,” she said with a giant “fuck you” grin. “It’s YOUR ‘word’ versus mine and as the Dean of this school, I know whose word I’m taking in this manner.

“Now,” she continued her tone suddenly serious. “We are NOT discussing this matter again, and if you say another word, I WILL fine you and I know you will NOT like it! Now GO!”

The line cook above is now getting the money he’s owed…or at least half of it. Meanwhile, my five months of sweeping floors for free remains as uncredited “volunteer work” and probably always will be…

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Categories: Autism, BYAS (Benchmark Transitions), California, editorials, job hunting, news, Redlands\Yucaipa | Leave a comment

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