Two Belfast KFC workers have settled sexual harassment claims for £30,000.
Sisters Kirstie and Courtney McKeever alleged they suffered harassment by a male co-worker at a branch of KFC in Boucher Road.
They claimed he touched and pinched them despite being asked to stop, used overtly sexual language and exposed himself. He has been dismissed.
The Equality Commission watchdog, which supported the pair, said: “The women alleged they reported the incidents to supervisors and managers but the behaviour continued.
“The McKeever sisters felt that, in the end, they had no choice but to resign their jobs.”
Kirstie McKeever was studying for her A-levels when she started working for KFC.
She said: “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.”
Her sister Courtney was also still at school.
She said: “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.”
Kirstie and Courtney McKeever settled the claims for £14,000 and £16,000 respectively.
Justin Stratton, human resources director for KFC franchisee Herbel Restaurants, apologised.
“We do not tolerate any type of harassment in our restaurants,” he said.
“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 women were offered the chance to reconsider their resignations but declined, Mr Stratton said.
In disposing of the case, Herbel Restaurants trading as KFC reaffirmed its commitment to equality of opportunity in the workplace and 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.
Evelyn Collins, chief executive of the Equality Commission, 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.
“What should have given these young women useful experience of the workplace instead became an ordeal that caused them great distress.”