Judge Defends Sexually Harassing Speech at KFC

In a ruling released earlier this month, Judge Charles Schaefer wrote that “Use of vulgar and obscene language and terms can serve to promote group solidarity” and that such language, used at a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Wisconsin, was meant to “achieve a legitimate business goal.”

KFC employee June Lauer left her $9.10-an-hour job after 13 years last summer because her managers referred to women managers as “bitches,” discussed oral sex and male genitalia, and asked Lauer if she was “on the rag.” One manager would announce on the store loudspeaker that he wanted to turn the KFC into a strip bar and that female employees should get tattoos of Col. Sanders on their breasts. She said their behavior caused her great stress and humiliation. “I don’t feel anybody should have to put up with that kind of behavior,” she said.

The ruling surprised even the KFC’s owner Jim Bratley. He said he didn’t know how Schaefer could think obscene and vulgar language would improve worker morale. “Management doesn’t condone any of that,” he said. The ruling has been appealed, and a sexual harassment complaint filed with Wisconsin’s equal rights division is pending.


AP - September 25, 1997

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