Dorney allegedly dismisses special needs employee, then offers a job

Posted Friday, February 5, 2016 4:53 PM | Contributed by Jeff

fter a wave of social media outrage, Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom officials on Friday said that they have offered to rehire a 29-year-old special needs man who has cleaned bathrooms at the amusement park for 12 seasons. But Christopher Emery's mother said she doesn't want her son going back to the South Whitehall Township park to face more humiliation.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 4:54 PM

This feels like one of those stories where something was left out.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 5:08 PM

I just scrolled through some of the 850+ comments on Dorney's FB page. 99% of them are blowing Dorney up and are pretty much ready to burn the park to the ground.

And yet, none of these folks know the whole story or context of exactly what happened. Jeff was right; talk about a mob mentality. Shoot first and ask questions later seems to be the theme here.

I'm not saying that there wasn't some failure in Dorney's hiring system that allowed this to occur, however, I'd bet that it was a simple case of something or someone just screwed up; with no ill intentions.

I will be withholding my opinion on the matter until I am able to understand the complete picture of what actually happened here.

Last edited by Hanging n' Banging, Friday, February 5, 2016 5:11 PM
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Friday, February 5, 2016 5:08 PM

Like I said in the other thread, there is likely way more to this story than what is being thrown about by the social media mob. This is totally lose/lose for the park since there's no way for them to tell their side.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 6:56 PM

Apologies if it came across as me "outraging" over the situation.

I agree with the general sentiment here, that most likely someone new came along in an HR position and was simply unaware of the special circumstances involved. That no specific harm was intended.

I hope his mother reconsiders - he seems to truly love his job.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 8:37 PM

Actually, the story is pretty accurate. Either the hiring person was a moron who didn't recognize Chris as special needs (and although he is high functioning on the autism spectrum, you can definitely tell that he has a disability by speaking with him or otherwise interacting with him), or there was no special needs hiring process in place. People in the area and who know Chris or know of him also think Dorney's just offering his job back to cover their butts because of backlash, and they're calling BS.

And it's getting uglier. Autism Speaks canceled their huge park event as a result of this. Dorney's definitely under fire, and as BigBoy said, there's not an identifiable win here.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 10:24 PM

bunky666 said:

Actually, the story is pretty accurate.

Hold on a minute...take a step back. What story? What is accurate? I've been combing the news feeds for the past 12 hours since this story blew up the internet and all we have yet to hear Dorney's side. All that you currently see is a mob lynching the park without knowing all of the facts.

I'm not saying to give Dorney a pass; but please wait to learn of the full picture before sentencing the park to the death penalty.

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Friday, February 5, 2016 10:24 PM

Yeah... Social media mobs are scary and don't piss off the Autism crowd either.

I say this with experience. My middle son is ASD and we had an incident where we were asked to leave a restaurant because of an outburst from him. A post was made on Facebook and it didn't take too long for the manager that asked us to leave to be fired, multiple requests from news media to interview us, and the corporate office contact us and offer free things.

Glad they were able to find a position for this person, its unfortunate that it came at the price of bad publicity.

~Rob

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Friday, February 5, 2016 11:00 PM

Hanging n' Banging said:

bunky666 said:

Actually, the story is pretty accurate.

Hold on a minute...take a step back. What story? What is accurate? I've been combing the news feeds for the past 12 hours since this story blew up the internet and all we have yet to hear Dorney's side. All that you currently see is a mob lynching the park without knowing all of the facts.

I'm not saying to give Dorney a pass; but please wait to learn of the full picture before sentencing the park to the death penalty.

Well, I'm acquainted with the original poster and very close to one of his friends, so all I'm saying is that the chronology of events is pretty accurate. I'm not crucifying the park by any means, just saying it looks bad for the park. I truly believe had the VP known about Chris coming for his interview, the whole thing never would have happened because he wouldn't have needed to interview.

Truth is, we DON'T know exactly what happened, and I'm reserving my own judgment as well. I don't think any discrimination or malignant intent was there, but people are PISSED. Big name organizations are canceling events. Horror stories of employee mistreatment are starting to circulate. The OSHA stuff is being brought back up. It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Haven't seen this area get so riled up about anything in a long time.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016 8:29 AM

A: I've admittedly zero experience in theme park human resources work, but after 12 years -- the park isn't just saying the job's yours if you want it? Why the need to put a proven, reliable employee through an annual interview?

B: I get moving to a different type of interview process. Consultants have to justify their fees somehow. But it seems to me that there was no accommodation in the process for special needs applicants. Also, not to digress, but .... a group interview process that involves building trains out of Legos? I'm sure it's some type of team-building exercise, but still...

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Saturday, February 6, 2016 12:17 PM

I'm not sure that I understand the reason that the mother won't let the guy work there. What does this achieve? It certainly doesn't sound like the best thing for her kid.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016 10:50 PM

I do have some experience in HR.

If during the process you look at the application and see he's worked for you for 12 years, you pull up his record on your computer, confirm he is eligible for rehire and tell him you look forward to seeing him on his report date.

It's people you have no experience that need the complicated processes.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016 11:59 PM

Captain Hawkeye said:

I do have some experience in HR.

If during the process you look at the application and see he's worked for you for 12 years, you pull up his record on your computer, confirm he is eligible for rehire and tell him you look forward to seeing him on his report date.

It's people you have no experience that need the complicated processes.

I hear ya, but this is a very idealistic viewpoint, but not realistic.

Dorney, like most large parks, including the one I work at, hires and re-hires thousands of people each season. Systems and people aren't perfect and sometimes things fall through the cracks.

Which is likely what happened here as I really doubt that Dorney has some hidden objective not to hire special needs workers. The system isn't perfect and this is probably all about a simple mistake, or mis-understading that happened to occur on a slow news/social media day.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 9:21 AM

Agreed. I think Christopher fell through the cracks of a new system (though I'm still befuddled by why a 12-year employee, special needs or not, seasonal or not, would have to be interviewed at all).

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 10:45 AM

The article specifically notes he was not refused employment but invited back for another interview. I have had that experience in the "real world" and while not always ideal for a candidate, it is not a refusal of employment.

The mother not letting the guy go back to a job he clearly adores in familiar surroundings with people who obviously care about him is counterproductive. It's her way of trying to make a point that doesn't need to be made.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 6:03 PM

Still. Why any interviews? If any employee has over a decade of reliable, consistent employment, why not just invite them back and have that much more time to interview possible new hires?

It just perplexes me.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 6:33 PM

If I'm thinking like a corporation (because they're people now, you know), I'm thinking I need to treat everyone equally. If you have no disability, and someone who does is chosen over you, is that grounds for legal action? I'm not asking if it makes you a dick, just if it means you have a case. Some lawyer somewhere on retainer for some company has to think about that.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 7:25 PM

Except you are treating everyone equally. Everyone who has a record of satisfactory employment with your corporation gets treated the same.

I agree with Slither: clearly he fell through the cracks-which shouldn't happen. And I agree even more with his latest post: THERE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A INTERVIEW at all. The work record with your company will tell you way more than 100 interviews will.

Instead of taking up time interviewing the process should have been:

1) Read Application

2) Look at employee records on computer screen

3) If satisfactory, rehire for 13th season.

Anything else wastes employee AND company time and runs the risk of erroneous results--which appears to have happened here. No "process" will be as useful as your company's history with this employee. It has nothing to do with a disability.

Last edited by Captain Hawkeye, Sunday, February 7, 2016 7:28 PM
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Sunday, February 7, 2016 8:05 PM

This happens at big companies to low level employees. Company ABC decides that to save money, they are going to outsource a low level department. All ABC employees in that department are laid off and company XYZ is brought in to do the work. Ex-ABC employees are welcome to interview for a first year position with XYZ, and if successful, can do the exact same job at a lower hourly rate, part time, with no more benefits.

I don't agree with this one bit, but my guess is this is what happened. The new interview process weeded out this poor guy, who most certainly was qualified, because he was judged by a how many boxes were checked on his focus group worksheet, and not a personal human interview.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016 8:07 PM

Right -- and, reiterating I have exactly zero experience working in HR -- but how an interview at which one makes trains out of Legos tells the interviewer more about the applicant than twelve years of hard, reliable, documented work escapes me. Re-hiring good employees and choosing between multiple new applicants are two different things.

Maybe someone more local to the story will know the answer -- the article says his mother doesn't want him to work at the park this summer, but will he make that final choice?

Hi, Tommytheduck, you snuck in while I was distractedly posting while watching a Star Trek The Next Generation rerun on BBC America :-)

This story is of particular interest to me as I'm on the autism spectrum. While I'm very high-functioning, employment interviews can be difficult for me as I'm not able to "see" most non-verbal social cues.

From what I've read, there's not a new company involved, rather a new process (Lego blocks... trains....) and I do think this fellow just slipped through the cracks of a new system that perhaps wasn't as well thought out as it should have been.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Sunday, February 7, 2016 8:15 PM
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