By Kayla Wiles, Contributor
When students returned to Furman for the spring 2017 semester, many noticed that Richard Enloe was not at the Dining Hall cash register to greet them.
Bon Appétit Dining Hall management had terminated Enloe, commonly known as “Mr. Rick,” following a recent medical leave.
Neither Bon Appétit nor Furman commented on the nature of the termination, given Bon Appétit’s company policy on discussing employees’ personal information and Furman’s working relationship with the food service provider.
The news was a shock to students, particularly the nearly 2,000 upperclassmen and alumni who had signed a petition in summer 2015 for then-food service provider, Aramark, to keep Enloe on staff. Like Bon Appétit, Aramark had terminated Enloe when his health issues prevented him from working consistently.
Students had shared the message “Bring Back Mr. Rick” via social media and formally requested for Dining Hall management to rehire Enloe. Due to the large volume of student protest, Enloe returned as a Dining Hall employee shortly before Aramark’s contract ended in spring 2016.
According to Enloe, a recurring staph infection followed by low blood pressure resulted in 18 doctor visits over the past four months. Even though Dining Hall management had mailed letters to his house requesting doctor excuses, Enloe stated that he did not receive the letters until he was informed over the phone of his placement on the termination list.
“A medical leave of absence must be supported by timely documentation from a medical provider,” said Michael Brownlee, resident district manager for Furman’s Café Bon Appétit Dining, through email.
Brownlee also clarified that all Furman Dining Hall part-time hourly and salaried employees who transferred to Bon Appétit from the Aramark contract could choose to enroll in short-term disability insurance, which offers income protection to employees during a medical leave.
Enloe claimed that he did not receive disability insurance while an employee.
The organizers of the 2015 petition — senior Hazel Davis and alumni Jake Crouse and Matthew Morris — believe that students should find alternative ways to support Enloe and his family.
“I think one of the powers of last time was that Aramark was under contract and it was almost about to end. As far as I know, Bon Appétit has been a very good change, so I don’t want to stir up anything that doesn’t need to be stirred up,” said Davis, in relation to the possibility of another petition.
“The least we can do is demand answers from [Dining Hall management],” said Crouse, who is currently studying at the Columbia University School of Journalism. “I know a day will come when Mr. Rick won’t be able to greet students every day, and maybe that time is now. But if so, we also need to support him and his family in this hard time they are going through. I think Mr. Rick would appreciate that the most in these uncertain times.”
Students can still stay in touch with Mr. Rick through Facebook and learn how to support his family financially, if they wish.
“We’ve almost lost him about three times,” said Enloe’s wife, Patti. “Getting messages from the kids keeps him going. They are healing for him.”