Northern Ireland

KFC: McKeever sisters settle sexual harassment claims

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Media captionSisters settle KFC sexual harassment claims

Two sisters have settled sexual harassment claims against a fast food restaurant in Belfast.

Kirstie and Courtney McKeever resigned from their jobs at KFC on the Boucher Road after their complaints against a male co-worker did not end his alleged behaviour.

They took a case against Herbel Restaurants, trading as KFC, and were awarded £14,000 and £16,000.

The sisters were assisted in their case by the Equality Commission.

The women, who began working at KFC part-time as teenagers, alleged that a co-worker touched and pinched them despite being asked to stop, used overtly sexual language and exposed himself.

Speaking to the BBC's Good Morning Ulster Programme, Courtney McKeever said: "He would say sexual things to me and ask could he do sexual things to me.

"He asked me to have sex with him on a number of occasions and I told him no.

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Image caption The sisters were working at KFC Boucher Road when the alleged harassment happened

"On some occasions he would be nice - it just depended what mood he was in. But if you told him to stop or complained [about his behaviour] he would start being nasty."

The sisters alleged they reported the incidents to supervisors and managers but his behaviour continued.

Courtney said their lack of action made her feel powerless.

"They kept saying they would deal with it, but they never really did. They actually told me at one point that they were going to sack him but they didn't and it went on for a few months after that."

The sisters felt that they had no choice but to give up their jobs.

'Tough time'

Kirstie McKeever said the alleged behaviour of her co-worker had made her ill and led to her resigning.

The pair urged anyone else facing similar treatment "to come forward".

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Image caption Dr Evelyn Collins said what should have been a "useful experience of the workplace instead became an ordeal which caused them great distress"

Chief executive of the Equality Commission, Dr Evelyn Collins, said: "It is unacceptable that, decades after it was established that sexual harassment constitutes unlawful sex discrimination, we are still witnessing cases such as Kirstie's and Courtney's.

"Here were two young women who simply wanted a part-time job to earn some money like so many other teenagers.

Legal obligations

"What should have given these young women useful experience of the workplace instead became an ordeal that caused them great distress."

The male co-worker against whom the complaints were made was dismissed.

In settling the case, Herbel Restaurants, trading as KFC, reaffirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity in the workplace.

Justin Stratton, HR director for Herbel Restaurants, said the company did not tolerate any type of harassment in its restaurants.

"When we heard about these allegations, we investigated and took action, which resulted in the dismissal of the employee in question," he said.

'Necessary steps'

"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."

The company has agreed to meet the Equality Commission to review its equal opportunities procedures to ensure they are compliant with its legal obligations.

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