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The Associated Press May 18, 2010, 6:03PM ET

Ala. KFC owner to pay $1M for sexual harassment

The owner of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in south Alabama will pay 19 female employees more than $1 million to settle sexual harassment claims, a federal agency announced Tuesday.

A suit filed on behalf of the women in March 2009 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission leveled accusations against Jack Marshall Foods, Inc., a family run company based in Tuscaloosa, which operates the KFC restaurant in Monroeville.

The suit accused the business of tolerating male employees openly describing sexual desires and interests with female employees and engaging in unwelcome sexual touching and groping. The suit said at least three of the women at the Monroeville restaurant were teenagers at the time.

In a press release Jack Marshall Foods said Tuesday that it fired the male cooks in question before the suit was filed and that not all of the claims were found to be true. The company said it settled the case rather than pursue costly litigation "so that we could protect the jobs of our other 400 employees."

"The allegations in this case were shocking," said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas.

"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."

The KFC chain is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc.

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