Media report workplace sexual harassment and assault of young women in hospitality industry


Tue 03 Mar 2020

As part of the ongoing #metoo media investigation, Journalist Alison Mau has reported cases of sexual harassment and assault of young women in the hospitality industry.

In December 2019, Stuff reported cases of four young women who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault while working as employees at KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants at different locations in New Zealand. Their experiences highlighted that harassment was common and identified significant issues with the response from senior staff and the parent company, Restaurant Brands, including:

  • "Supervisors and managers did not know how to handle disclosures of sexual misconduct at the stores, told a complainant to stay quiet and in one case, destroyed text evidence.
  • Measures to keep complainants safe after they reported the abuse were absent or inadequate.
  • The company refused to investigate because 'too much time' had passed.
  • Investigations were poorly carried out and complainants were not told anything of the outcomes.
  • An alleged perpetrator was paid while the investigation took place, but the complainant was forced to use her leave.
  • In some cases, the alleged perpetrator was promoted or moved into a more senior position at other stores, with the company refusing to say whether the behaviour had been found proved."

According to the article, three complainants have lodged complaints with the Human Rights Commission against Restaurant Brands. Restaurant Brands has said they would be conducting a review.

Following the media article, Unite Union surveyed current and former union-affiliated Restaurant Brands workers, identifying additional experiences of harassment and assault. Stuff has continued to document employment issues with the restaurants - see the related media below.

Related news

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is calling on member States (including New Zealand) to ratify the recently adopted Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work and the Violence and Harassment Recommendation. The Convention sets international standards for the rights of all people to be free from violence and harassment at work and recognises that violence and harassment at work can constitute a human rights violation or abuse.

In New Zealand, media first broke stories as part of the global #metoo movement with allegations of sexual harassment and assault in the legal profession including law firm Russell McVeagh.

in December 2019, Ana Lenard, Allanah Colley and Bridget McLay from the New Zealand Women’s Law Journal published the report Purea Nei: Changing the Culture of the Legal Profession. The report explores workplace issues in the legal sector around culture, diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, bullying, gender equality, training and education, leadership, management, and remuneration. See further updates about changes in the legal profession in the related media below.

The Government has announced work to strengthen the Protected Disclosures Act 2000. The Act provides protections for workers to report serious wrongdoing at work including misconduct such as harassment and bullying. For further information see the State Sector Services Commission.

Update: The Australian Human Rights Commission has published Respect@Work (2020), the final report from the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.

Related media

Pizza Hut worker reported rape by a colleague, HR said it was a 'personal' matter, Stuff, 22.03.2020

WorkSafe privately admits threshold for investigating bullying, harassment is too high, Stuff, 15.03.2020

The sexual harassment inquiry report is revolutionary, Women's Agenda, 11.03.2020

Police release findings of bullying review, NZ Police Media Release, 03.03.2020

It’s more than Weinstein, Newsroom, 25.02.2020

Chief Ombudsman Welcomes Protected Disclosure Act Review, Press Release: Office of the Ombudsman, Scoop, 20.02.2020

NZ Law Society (NZLS) Board Approves Proposed Changes to Lawyers’ Conduct Rules, Law Society News, 14.02.2020

Russell McVeagh's #Metoo moment: two years on what has changed?, Stuff, 14.02.2020

Dear Keith: Young woman pens open letter to her sexual harasser, Stuff, 09.02.2020

KFC worker threatened with sack over sexual harassment post on Facebook, Stuff, 31.01.2020

KFC staffer accused of sexual harassment promoted to general manager, Stuff, 26.01.2020

Sexual assault allegations against ex-Labour staffer 'not established', RNZ, 18.12.2019

‘Worst nightmare’: Labour staffer complainants respond to Dew report, The Spinoff, 18.12.2019

Image: Steve Long on Unsplash

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