Teenagers Were Among Around 19 Victims of Abuse at Monroeville KFC, Agency Charged
MOBILE, Ala. — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that Jack Marshall Foods, Inc., doing business as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Inc., a Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based company, will pay a group of about 19 female employees, including at least three who were teenagers at the time they were employed there, $1,052,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a lawsuit brought by the federal agency charging sexual harassment.
In its lawsuit, filed on March 25, 2009 (Case No. 1:09-cv-0160-WS-N), the EEOC asserted that Jack Marshall Foods knew about and tolerated a work environment permeated by sexual harassment at its Monroeville, Ala., store.
According to the EEOC, the hostile work environment included male employees openly describing and articulating their sexual desires and interests with female employees; engaging in unwelcome sexual conduct, including sexual touching, groping, gestures and demonstrations; and openly discussing their genitals and the physical characteristics of the female victims.
“Sexual harassment at any workplace is unacceptable,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien. “But when some of the victims are teenagers, as was the case here, the situation is especially egregious. Very young workers can be particularly vulnerable to this sort of abuse, and the EEOC will continue to fight vigorously to protect their right to be free from sex-based discrimination.”
Under the publicly filed consent decree, Jack Marshall Foods is required, in addition to providing monetary relief, to give training to its employees; post a notice of the settlement at the Monroeville store; maintain records of discrimination complaints; and report such complaints to the EEOC, together with any actions taken in response, for two and one half years.
“The allegations in this case were shocking,” said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. “Employers must act promptly and take appropriate corrective action once they receive notice of inappropriate sex-based behavior in the workplace.”
The government’s litigation effort was led by EEOC Trial Attorney Maricia Woodham under the supervision of EEOC Birmingham Supervisory Trial Attorney Julie Bean.
“A work environment permeated with sexual comments and conduct makes it nearly impossible for women to work every day,” said EEOC Trial Attorney Maricia Woodham.
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office added, “We are pleased that Jack Marshall is dramatically improving its internal complaint procedure. The Commission is particularly sensitive to allegations that teenage employees are being victimized in the workplace. Strong policies, certain enforcement and thorough training are the best guards against workplace harassment.”
The plaintiff-intervenors were represented by Birmingham law firm Wiggins, Childs, Quinn and Pantazis, P.C. and Sherrie McKenzie of Monroeville, Ala.
The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Alabama, Mississippi and Northern Florida, with Area Offices in Jackson, Miss., and Mobile, Ala.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.