Compensation ordered for visually impaired woman told her assistance dog had to leave KFC

Compensation Ordered For Visually Impaired Woman Told Her Assistance Dog Had To Leave Kfc
The operator of a KFC restaurant on Parnell Street in Dublin City Centre, Scotco, was ordered to pay the woman €2,000 in compensation. Photo: Getty Images
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Seán McCárthaigh

A KFC restaurant in Dublin City has been ordered to pay €2,000 in compensation after telling a woman with a vision impairment that her assistance dog would have to leave the premises.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that Scotco, the operator of a KFC restaurant on Parnell Street, had discriminated against Maria Rosita Apaza Machaca on grounds of disability.


At a WRC hearing in January, Scotco’s head of legal, Lida Khanverdi, acknowledged that Ms Machaca had been poorly treated in the restaurant and offered her a sincere apology.

Ms Machaca gave evidence that she was approached by a member of staff when she was in the KFC restaurant on April 25th, 2023, and was informed that her dog was not allowed on the premises.

The complainant said she became frightened and started to record the incident on camera, which resulted in the staff member becoming agitated, and she was questioned by a security guard.

Ms Machaca said she asked the security guard to show her a relevant sign, and she was shown one which read: “Assistance Dogs Only.”


She told the WRC that she felt intimidated and shaken by the disrespect she had been shown, and had left the restaurant in tears.

Ms Machaca said the incident made her think about whether she would go into certain premises with her dog after she had been made feel voiceless and completely powerless.

She also said she was hurt that the KFC staff member had addressed her friend instead of speaking directly to her, and it appeared the employee had no training in accommodating people with disabilities.

Lack of awareness

Dr Robert Sinnott, of Voice of Vision Impairment, an organisation representing visually impaired people, said he had been contacted by the complainant who did not believe a complaint she had made to the restaurant was being taken seriously.


Dr Sinnott said the company’s lack of awareness of people with disabilities was also demonstrated by its failure to make documents sent in a reply to Ms Machaca’s complaint accessible and readable.

The WRC heard that Ms Machaca was originally asked to move her dog because another staff member, who was washing the floor, was afraid of dogs.

The company claimed the complainant was only asked to leave the restaurant by an employee after she became rude.

However, Scotco acknowledged that its employee should have called her team leader to deal with the situation and accepted that she had not been trained to handle situations with customers with a disability.


The company said it now has a procedure for employees to follow in similar situations, while the staff member in question has been given a verbal warning.

Scotco’s solicitor, Fiona Egan, acknowledged the incident was serious and the result of “human error”.


The WRC heard the restaurant’s management recognised its employee code of conduct was no longer fit for purpose and a revised version was due to be presented to its director for approval shortly.

While there was some disagreement about whether Ms Machaca was rude to a staff member, WRC adjudication officer, Catherine Byrne, said there was no dispute that she was asked to leave because of her assistance dog.


Ms Byrne said a person with a visual impairment is entitled to avail of the services of an assistance dog when visiting a restaurant.

She said it seemed “very disheartening” that a person would be asked to leave a restaurant because of their assistance dog, adding that such treatment must be “frustrating, demeaning and depressing”.

Ms Byrne said it was all the more worrying because an assistance dog provides a tangible, physical signal that a person has a disability to avoid them being discriminated against.

In addition, she noted that the restaurant had a sign which showed it permitted assistance dogs on the premises.

“It is apparent that the decision of the restaurant employee to ask the complainant to leave was caused by a lack of information and training regarding accessibility for people with disabilities,” Ms Byrne said.

Awarding Ms Machaca compensation of €2,000, she also directed the restaurant to have its draft Employee Code of Conduct and any training on discrimination ratified by a disability rights organisation.

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