It’s been a tough year for Paula Deen so far. After coming clean about her battle with Type 2 Diabetes and being slammed by Anthony Bourdain for her “dangerous cooking,” the comfort-food connoisseur has been hit with a lawsuit that claims her workplace was home to racist behavior and rampant sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress, and assault. According to papers obtained by Radar, the plaintiff Lisa Jackson served as the general manager of Bubba’s Oyster House, co-owned by Deen and her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers, for five years. She described Hiers’ behavior during that period as “physically threatening and universally humiliating.” UPDATE: Read a comment from Deen’s camp below.
In her lawsuit, Jackson alleges several instances in which celebrity chef Deen and her brother used the N-word in a professional setting, including at Hiers’ 2007 wedding and when Hiers suggested President Obama should be sent “to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico so he could n—-r-rig it.” She claims African-American employees were told to use back doors and segregated bathrooms. Jackson also alleges Hiers referred to her as “my little Jew girl” after her success managing the restaurant.
Jackson also claims she was sexually harassed by Hiers, who allegedly watched pornography on his work computer in their shared office. According to the lawsuit, he also asked Jackson to “bring pictures of herself when she was young for him to view.”
Hiers’ alleged temper is also a cause for dispute. Jackson claims “the staff of Uncle Bubba’s restaurant was in a constant state of fear.” Jackson left Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in 2010 when she felt her complaints were not being addressed.
Jackson is suing Deen and Hiers personally, as well as Deen’s companies Paula Deen Enterprises, The Lady & Sons, The Lady Enterprises, and Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, Inc. A representative for Paula Deen had not responded to EW’s request for comment at press time.
Oliver Maner LLP, Deen’s Savannah representatives, issued this statement to EW:
“We investigated [Jackson’s] claims and attempted unsuccessfully to address those claims with her. She has made baseless, inflammatory allegations, threatening to go to the press and ruin Paula Deen’s reputation and the reputation of her businesses unless we paid her a large sum of money. We refused to bow to that kind of pressure and refused to pay money to address false claims.” He added that Jackson’s allegations “will be proven false in court. We have filed our defensive pleadings with the court denying Ms. Jackson’s claims and those pleadings are a matter of public record. We will hold Ms. Jackson and her lawyer accountable for these false allegations. We look forward to our day in court and have nothing further to say.”