Sisters sexually harassed by KFC colleague who ignored pleas to stop win payout
Two sisters who alleged they were sexually harassed at the fast-food restaurant where they worked have settled their cases for £30,000.
Kirstie and Courtney McKeever were awarded £14,000 and £16,000 respectively after taking claims against Herbel Restaurants, trading as KFC.
The sisters alleged they had suffered harassment from a male co-worker at KFC on the Boucher Road in Belfast.
They claimed the colleague touched and pinched them despite being asked to stop. He also allegedly used overtly sexual language and exposed himself.
The women said they reported the incidents to supervisors and managers, but the behaviour continued. Ultimately, the McKeever sisters felt they had no choice but to resign.
The man against whom the complaints were made was subsequently fired.
The sisters took a case assisted by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
Kirstie (21) said: "I was studying for my A-levels when I started working in KFC. Initially, I enjoyed my job and it was only when I began to work the same shifts as this particular guy that the issues started.
"He would touch my face and pinch me under the arms. It made me feel really uncomfortable and I told him to stop.
"He also began to ask me inappropriate questions of a sexual nature. I asked him to stop it and then complained to supervisors but it continued. His behaviour made me ill and led to me resigning from my job."
Courtney (19), said the co-worker's alleged behaviour had been completely inappropriate and also urged other in similar situations to speak out.
"I was really pleased to get a job in KFC with my sister," she explained. "I was still at school and it was great to be earning some money. When the guy started nipping me, I told him to stop. Throughout the time I was there he made what I felt were insulting and threatening remarks to me and inappropriate sexual remarks.
"I complained to supervisors, who said they would speak to him, but nothing changed. In the end I felt I had to resign from my job. It was a tough time, but I'm glad it is all behind me now and I would encourage anyone else facing treatment like this to come forward."
In settling the case, Herbel Restaurants, trading as KFC, reaffirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity in the workplace. It also agreed to meet the Equality Commission to review its equal opportunities policies, practices and procedures to ensure they are fully compliant with its legal obligations.
Justin Stratton, human resources director for KFC franchisee Herbel Restaurants, said: "We do not tolerate any type of harassment in our restaurants. When we heard about these allegations, we investigated and took action, which resulted in the dismissal of the employee in question.
"We also invited the claimants to attend formal grievance and investigation meetings, as well as the opportunity to reconsider their resignations, but these were all declined.
"Whilst the settlement clarified that no blame lies with the company for what happened, and that we took all necessary steps to put things right, we understand that this was a distressing experience for the team members involved and, for that, we're sorry."