You Should Reconsider Eating at Applebee's

October 26th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

An Applebee's restaurant in Portsmouth, Rhode Island will pay back wages to an autistic man whose parents said never received a check after about a year of working the job, local station WPRI reported last week.

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Caleb Dyl, 21, was placed at the restaurant as a prep-cook by the local Resources Human Development last August. The agency said that their records indicated Dyl had worked about 166 hours, and Applebees initially agreed to pay that much in back pay. The company has since agreed to pay what Dyl's parents said their son actually worked, about 480 hours.

"We obviously feel terrible," Eleanor Clancy, regional director for the Applebee's told the New York Daily News, adding that a check had been mailed to Dyl. "We have to make this right," she said.

The state's Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, which provides funding to the non-profit agency that placed Dyl in the job, did not immediately return ATTN:'s request for comment. According to news reports, the department is conducting an investigation into the case.


"Clearly, all employees deserve to be paid for every hour worked," Tom Linafelt, senior manager of corporate communications for Applebee's and its parent company, DineEquity, which also owns IHOP, told ATTN: in an email. "This is unacceptable, and once notified our restaurant owner quickly ensured a check was sent to Caleb's home."

"Our franchise owner has told us that the mistake in this case, while regrettable, will not dampen their enthusiasm for providing employment opportunities to those with special needs," Linafelt added.

Other wage theft allegations

The Rhode Island case is not the first wage theft gaffe the company has faced down in recent years. Last year, one franchisee, the now-bankrupt AppleIllinois LLC faced hefty settlements over wage theft allegations after a federal judge preliminarily approved a $2.7 million settlement to be paid to bartenders and servers who filed suit.

The more than 5,500 workers claimed the company paid them the tipped minimum wage for non-tipped work duties, leading lower courts to rule that full minimum wage was entitled to workers spending more than 20 percent of their time performing non-tip-producing duties. Applebee's claimed those standards were at odds other labor laws and regulations, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately rejected Applebee's challenge to the lawsuit. Companies can pay a lower minimum wage to workers, so long as they abide the so-called "tip credit" rule, a federal labor law that makes restaurants make up employees' wages to $7.25 an hour if customer tips do not.

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Another franchisee, Doherty Enterprises Inc., is mired in a legal battle with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after a federal judge in September refused to dismiss claims filed by the EEOC over the franchise's requirement that employees sign mandatory arbitration agreements, limiting employees' ability to file suit.

The company's use of the tipped minimum wage—and related lobbying efforts—has been the subject of criticism before from labor-oriented groups and research outfits. According to one report from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), DineEquity spent $930,000 on federal lobbying in the election cycles since the 2011-2012 period. But, the report notes, thanks to the double subsidy model the company operates on—in which consumers make up employee wages with tips, and taxpayers fund public assistance programs for low-wage employees—taxpayers doled out an annual average of $449,569,135 to cover public assistance programs for DineEquity employees.