Originally published: July 2, 2010, 3:41 p.m.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — A white, gay man has alleged racial discrimination and sexual harassment against his employers at a local KFC restaurant and has filed his complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
[Ed. Note — This news story contains language some might consider offensive or obscene.]
In a press release distributed by his life partner Benjamin Tarsa, Marty Folks, 37, says he was subjected to racial discrimination and anti-gay taunts, epithets and sexual harassment while employed at the 4623 Market St. KFC restaurant owned by Luihn Food Systems, a Yum! Brands franchisee with more than 85 stores throughout the Southeast, primarily in North Carolina. Yum! Brands owns six fast food chains, including KFC, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Folks was hired to work at the KFC store in September 2009 and says he took the position after receiving a personal call from Luihn district manager Tammy Flood, according to the press release . Folks had been employed at another Yum! Brands franchise and says he was lured to the new position with promises of better hours and a chance for promotion. Soon after his employment began, however, Folks says he began to experience verbal abuse.
In his complaint to the EEOC, which Tarsa provided to qnotes, Folks writes, “I am constantly being called ‘butt fucker’, ‘cock sucker’ and ‘fucking faggot’. I have been exposed to others using the words ‘Nigga and Nigger’ in my presence. I have also been sexually harassed by a co-worker.”
Folks also detailed sexual harassment at the workplace in his EEOC complaint, alleging another employee grabbed his privates and nipples through his clothing and simulated anal sex when he bent over in the course of performing work-related duties.
“This was witnessed by a Manager, who has been exposed to this treatment, but has failed to discipline this individual,” the complaint reads.
In March, Folks says he was told to “go back to your window you fucking faggot,” by a manager at the business. Folks clocked out that day and contacted Lori Mayette, Luihn director of human resources, who undertook a short investigation after which three employees, including two managers, were found to have acted inappropriately and were terminated from employment.
Despite the action from Folks’ human resources department, he says the working environment at the KFC store did not improve. He claims he has suffered panic and anxiety attacks because of the harassment.
According to the release, “After offering some additional support based on his doctor’s assessment that he was not able to return [to work], Luihn pressured Folks to drop his complaint. When he refused, Luihn withdrew any offers of support and stated that they considered his unwillingness to return immediately as his resignation.”
Folks is in the process of filing additional complaints of retaliation with the EEOC, and alleges Luihn Food Systems has rejected his request to enter mediation and denies any wrongdoing.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere where I was treated like that,” Folks told qnotes. “This is the first time something like this has every happened to me.”
qnotes contacted Luihn Food Systems for comment. Neither Luihn President Jody Luihn nor Human Resources Director Lore Mayette were available.
Due to federal confidentiality laws and regulations, qnotes was unable to learn anything more about Folks’ complaint from the EEOC, but did learn the federal agency sued Luihn Food Systems in August 2009 for alleged sexual harassment of four female employees at a KFC store in Raleigh. That case has yet to be resolved.
Rick Maynard, KFC spokesman, told qnotes the company is commitment to diversity and respect.
“KFC Corporation believes strongly in a culture of respect for all employees, and behavior inconsistent with that culture is not tolerated,” he said in an emailed statement. “Our expectation is that our franchisees take all reports such as this very seriously and take quick and appropriate action where warranted.”
KFC Corporation’s equal employment policy is inclusive of sexual orientation.