Lawsuit: Columbus KFC worker fired after reporting sexual harassment, racial discrimination

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A former Columbus KFC employee alleges she was illegally fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment and racial discrimination, according to a federal lawsuit filed earlier this week.

Jessica Taylor alleges she was harassed by co-workers at the Kentucky Fried Chicken on 6760 Veterans Parkway in 2019. The lawsuit was filed against JRN Inc., a Tennessee-based franchisee that operates the Columbus store.

The lawsuit alleges that JRN discriminated and retaliated against Taylor in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, section 1981.

Taylor’s attorney, J. Stephen Mixon, Jr., declined to comment about the lawsuit. Attempts to contact JRN before publication were not returned.

Sexual harassment

According to the lawsuit, then-store manager Jeffrey Harvey allegedly made sexually explicit comments to Taylor that created an “intimidating, hostile, and offensive working environment.”

Taylor allegedly reported sexual harassment to another store manager. That manager told Taylor she would investigate, but Taylor saw no evidence of an investigation.

Taylor was allegedly harassed by Harvey again during a shift on Aug. 25, 2019. According to court documents, Harvey grabbed Taylor’s buttocks. Taylor reported the assault to managers on duty, but the lawsuit alleges they did nothing to protect her.

Taylor then called the police, and officers arrested Harvey. Muscogee County court records show Harvey was found guilty of sexual battery in October 2019. He was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to stay away from Taylor.

Alleged racial discrimination

After Harvey’s arrest, the store’s management and its workers were upset with Taylor. Taylor, a white woman, was subjected to poor treatment from her predominately Black co-workers, the lawsuit alleges.

Managers and coworkers allegedly called her racist names and made racist comments. A Black co-worker allegedly called a “relative/friend” to the store who then assaulted Taylor because she was white. When Harvey was released from jail, he went to the store to taunt Taylor, according to the lawsuit.

Taylor reported the discrimination to KFC, but the lawsuit alleges that no action was taken.

As a result of her reports of sexual harassment and racial discrimination, Taylor’s hours were cut. She was also given “materially less desirable work assignments” in addition to heavy manual labor that she hadn’t performed before her complaints. She was then fired on Oct. 30, 2019, according to the lawsuit.