Celebrity chef Paula Deen and her brother have been sued by one of their former employees for alleged sexual harassment and have also been accused of using racial slurs, while the famed chef's lawyer says the claims are false.
The plaintiff, Georgia resident Lisa Jackson, describes herself as a Caucasian, white female and says she worked for Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia. The eatery is co-owned by Deen and her younger brother, Earl W. "Bubba" Hiers.
Jackson says she served as a general manager for the restaurant between August 2005 and August 2010 and also worked for Deen's company, Paula Deen Enterprises, providing external catering services.
Jackson says Deen had her make food and serving arrangements for Hiers' 2007 wedding. She says Deen told her she wanted "a true Southern plantation-style wedding" and used a racial slur against black people while describing what type of uniforms she wanted servers to wear.
She also said Hiers, 58, discriminated against black workers at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House and said offensive things about African-Americans. Jackson says he also made sexual, chauvinistic and other inappropriate comments, sometimes about other employees, in front of her.
She says he also touched her inappropriately in the presence of colleagues in August 2010 and that she quit her job a week later.
"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," a lawyer representing Deen and her brother said in response to the matter, according to the Georgia publication The Daily Report.
"We did not pay that money," he added, "Her allegations are false, and we look forward to our day in court."
Jackson said before she left her job, she asked senior management and Deen for a transfer to another position, "even if it required a cut in pay," but was told by the chef that she "could never leave Uncle Bubba's restaurant." She says "the harassment, assault, battery and other insults" she endured caused her to suffer "serious medical consequences," which her doctor directly connected to her work.
Jackson says she was subjected her to "racially discriminatory conduct every single day she came to work" and that Hiers engaged in sexual harassment, assault, battery, violent behavior and other humiliating conduct. She is seeking unspecified damages, fees and back pay and is requesting a jury trial.
Hiers, who wrote the cookbook "Uncle Bubba's Savannah Seafood," and Deen herself have not commented in person about the lawsuit.
Deen, one of the most popular television chefs in the United States, made headlines in January when she announced that she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years ago during a routine physical.
Deen, who is known for her high-calorie recipes, also confirmed that she is now a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, a healthcare firm that specializes in diabetes medication.