Paula Deen’s lawyer says harassment claims are false
4:08 pm, March 5th, 2012
The lawyer for celebrity restaurateur Paula Deen and her business enterprise said Monday afternoon that charges in an ex-employee’s suit—including claims that Deen’s brother subjected the plaintiff and others to misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism—are false.
Greg Hodges, a partner at Oliver Maner in Savannah, confirmed that the plaintiff, Lisa T. Jackson, worked for Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, which is owned by Deen and Deen’s brother. She also did some work for Paula Deen Enterprises, Hodges said.
“Now, she claims she was mistreated during her employment,” Hodges said. “We investigated those claims and attempted unsuccessfully to address those claims with her. She made, prior to filing the lawsuit, baseless and inflammatory allegations threatening Ms. Deen’s reputation and the reputation of her businesses unless a sum of money was paid to her.
“We did not pay that money. Her allegations are false, and we look forward to our day in court,” Hodges added.
Hodges’ colleague at Oliver Maner, James P. Gerard, is corporate counsel for Deen’s businesses. Hiers and Uncle Bubba’s restaurant will be represented in this case by Thomas A. Withers of Gillen Withers & Lake in Savannah, Hodges said.
The suit said Jackson was hired as a waitress in February 2005 and then promoted six months later to general manager of Uncle Bubba’s, which is owned by Deen and her brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers. The suit names both Deen and Hiers, as well as Paula Deen Enterprises, The Lady & Sons restaurant and Uncle Bubba’s restaurant as defendants.
Jackson, represented by S. Wesley Woolf of Savannah, is seeking unspecified damages, including back pay.
Jackson claims that before she left the company in August 2010, she was subject to various forms of harassment, witnessed harassment and slurs against her staff and was paid less than her male counterparts.
For instance, Jackson claims a top company accountant revoked her bonus because she divorced and that he also made derogatory comments about females.
The accountant , who was in control of compensation for the corporate enterprise, stated in Ms. Jackson’s presence, that “‘women are stupid because they think they can work and have babies and get everything done,’” Jackson’s complaint states.
Jackson’s civil complaint states that the Paula Deen Family of Companies and the encompassed restaurants were known as the “Boys Club” because men almost exclusively occupied management positions.
The complaint also details scenarios involving Deen and Hiers, such as Jackson’s appointment to replace another general manager who “was allegedly sleeping with servers, a matter disregarded by Bubba Hiers.”
“In a meeting with that general manager and Ms. Jackson, Paula Deen terminated that general manager and stated to Bubba Hiers, ‘if you think I have worked this hard to lose everything because of a piece of p[***]y, you better think again.’ Paula Deen continued, ‘and now I am going to do something I have never done. I am going to put a woman in a man’s job,’” the suit states.
Jackson alleges that her ability to make the restaurant turn a profit in six months was repeatedly derided by male managers. The plaintiff also claims she was called “my little Jew girl” by Hiers.
Jackson also alleges in her suit that Hiers kissed her and spit on her, was physically and verbally abusive to the staff, viewed pornography in his office and on kitchen computers in view of employees and took cash from the restaurant’s receipts—as much as $26,000 per month.
“On more than one occasion, Bubba Hiers requested that Ms. Jackson bring pictures of herself when she was young for him to view,” the complaint states. “He told her, ‘you have nice legs’ and that two other employees are ‘fat girls,’ commenting that (because of their weight) they did not need to be wearing Capri pants or skirts.”
Jackson, who is white, further alleged that other employees were subject to discrimination and harassment. She alleges that African-American employees were banned from using the same bathrooms as customers, although white employees were allowed, and that African-American employees were referred to as monkeys and n*****s by other managers and Hiers.
The complaint is here.