Dozens claim sexual harassment, assault at Restaurant Brands fast food stores

Dozens claim sexual harassment, assault at Restaurant Brands fast food stores

 

Half of all Restaurant Brand workers who responded to a survey said they'd been personally affected or witness to sexual harassment at work.

The Unite union poll was inspired by a Stuff #metooNZ investigation into rape, assaults and harassment of KFC and Pizza Hut workers around the country, and was sent out to 9000 current and former union-affiliated Restaurant Brands workers the following day.

In one instance, a respondent reported having to force her way out of a food freezer after her supervisor trapped and tried to kiss her. The woman was six months pregnant at the time.

Another woman said she and other workers were repeatedly groped by her manager at Pizza Hut, who also refused her sick leave when she miscarried. She said she was ignored when she reported the assaults to management at Restaurant Brands' Auckland headquarters.

The survey, which attracted 168 responses, showed assaults and harassment were not restricted by gender; a young man told of being regularly touched by a fellow worker, who refused to stop even after repeated requests. He said he was laughed at when he reported the behaviour to a manager.

Stuff's investigation, published on December 8, prompted an acknowledgment from the company and the offer of a personal apology from its CEO to one rape victim.

The woman has refused the offer, saying Restaurant Brands had many opportunities to apologise before her situation became public and she was skeptical of its timing.

She is one of four workers who have, or are planning to lodge formal complaints with the Human Rights Commission.

Restaurant Brands offered a personal apology to a rape victim whose shift supervisor raped her on shift at Pizza Hut. He was jailed for nine years and six months.
Photo DAVID WHITE
Restaurant Brands offered a personal apology to a rape victim whose shift supervisor raped her on shift at Pizza Hut. He was jailed for nine years and six months.

In a statement on December 6, the company said as a result of the "terrible events" it would launch a company-wide review of its approach to bullying, harassment and assault claims.

It has not responded to Stuff's subsequent request for an interview with Group CEO Russel Creedy.

The Unite survey asked whether respondents had ever been sexually assaulted or harassed, or had witnessed any such behaviour while working at a Restaurant Brands store, including Pizza Hut, KFC, Carl's Jnr and Starbucks.

Of the 168 responses, 25 percent said they had been a victim of sexual harassment while at work.

Another 25 per cent said they had witnessed or been reliably informed of a co-worker being the victim of sexual harassment or assault.

Of those respondents:

  • 7% said the matter was properly investigated
  • 11% said the matter was investigated but not dealt with adequately
  • 26% said the matter was not investigated
  • 13% said "other" and then left comments explaining their situation
A teenager working for KFC in Palmerston North previously told Stuff she was targeted by a newly promoted manager who text her outside work, lied about being married, and commented on her appearance.
Photo DAVID WHITE

Most of those comments were from people who had not reported the harassment, but union organisers said a number of the comments also described situations where the matter was ignored or not investigated, despite complaints being laid.

Unite's Duncan Allen said as part of Stuff's original investigation, the union had received complaints from other fast food workplaces but Restaurant Brands was by far the worst - which appeared to be a "deep-rooted issue with its company culture".

"Far more energy [is] put into protecting the alleged harasser than there is about investigating properly and fixing things," Allen said.

This week, Restaurant Brands said it could not comment on the survey, but said "independent counsel" had been hired to review its workplace harassment policies, procedures and practices.

It promised to implement any recommendations.

This story is part of the #MeTooNZ investigation into sexual harassment, a partnership between Alison Mau and Stuff. Contact Mau at alison.mau@stuff.co.nz.

WHERE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE CAN GET HELP

Rape Crisis - 0800 88 33 00 (Will direct you to a nearby centre), follow link for information on local helplines

Victim Support - 0800 842 846 (24hr service)

The Harbour, online support and information for those affected by harmful sexual behaviour

Women's Refuge (For women and children) - crisis line available on 0800 733 843

Safe to talk - 0800 044 334, text 4334 or web chat

Male Survivors Aotearoa (For men) - follow link for regional helplines

If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 111.