If you were to ask Brian if he would ever like to work in the food service industry again, he would tell you no.
Brian, 43, is currently an employee at VIP Industries, a sheltered workshop in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He had tried supported employment in the past, and then later transitioned into a competitive employment setting. While Brian had a great time with the job coach for both of his jobs in the community, things turned for the worse once his job coach was no longer needed.
After graduating from a state school in O’Fallon, Missouri, Brian worked at the Boone Center, a sheltered workshop in St. Peters. He enjoyed working there, but when he learned of an opportunity to work in the community, he was all for it. His first job was at a restaurant in Wentzville, where he washed dishes. Brian had a job coach with him for approximately 60-90 days, recalled his mother, Christine. Brian’s boss was very nice and the job coaching went well.
After the job coach was gone, the manager approached Brian’s parents and told them that Brian was too good of an employee. Brian’s job was to quickly spray the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Because Brian wanted to do a good job, he rinsed the dishes thoroughly, resulting in him taking too much time for what was supposed to be a quick rinse job. So the manager told his parents that the restaurant was going to “lay him off,” which was “just a nice way of saying goodbye,” Christine noted.
Brian went back to work at the workshop for a while and then was placed at a fast food restaurant, again with a job coach.
“He had a uniform,” Christine said. “He liked that.”
Christine pointed out that the job coaching took place during the day, but once the job coach was no longer needed, Brian was switched to the evening shift from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. This posed two problems: transportation to and from work and the night manager.
The night manager called Brian’s parents to tell them they were going to fire him for eating out of the garbage. Brian was responsible for throwing away the food as they “timed out,” Christine explained. Because of his schedule, Brian did not have dinner before going into work and would get hungry during his shift. Since the hamburgers were going to go into the garbage anyway, Brian would eat a few bites to help get him through the shift.
The night manager stated this was an unacceptable practice and fired him. Brian was devastated and told his mother that he never wanted to work in a restaurant again.
“It killed him when he got fired,” Christine said. “After that he didn’t want to work outside of the workshop.”
Working at the sheltered workshop gives Brian “a sense of self-worth. They make friends. They get socialization. The CI [Community Integration/Off-Site Day Habilitation] program is a real blessing for them,” Christine said.
Brian went back to work at a sheltered workshop, first in Fulton and then settling at VIP Industries in 1999.
“Brian likes the idea of going to work and having lunch. It equates to being normal,” Christine said.
If it wasn’t for the workshop, her son would probably be sitting at his apartment, watching TV and eating out of boredom, Christine said.