Celebrity Chef Paula Deen accused of Racism and Harassment

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Celebrity Chef Paula Deen accused of Racism and Harassment

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A former manager of Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, a restaurant co-owned by Paula Deen, has filed a lawsuit against the celebrity cook, accusing her of condoning an atmosphere of sexual harassment and race discrimination in her restaurant.  The Savannah-based oyster house is co-owned by Deen and her brother, Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers.  Paula Deen is the star of two Food Network shows and the best-selling author of cookbooks that have sold more than 8 million copies.

The Complaint brought by Lisa T. Jackson alleges racist behavior by Hiers, including accusations that he physically intimidated employees, displayed pornography at work, made offensive comments to the staff regarding their weight, and acted toward Jackson in a sexually degrading manner including forcibly kissing her cheek and spitting on her and repeatedly using racial epithets.

Jackson, a white woman who managed a number African American employees, claims that over the course of five years, she made “numerous and frequent” complaints of racial and sexual harassment and other abusive treatment to Deen and others in her restaurant group’s upper management, but they declined to act, even though the conduct was “universally known.”  Lawyers for Jackson allege that, during a conversation regarding Hiers’ 2007 wedding, Deen stated that she wanted “a true Southern plantation-style wedding,” and using a racial epithet, suggested the waitstaff wear, “long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around… Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”  Additionally, the complaint alleges that African American employees were not permitted to use the customer bathroom, and were required to use the back entrance of the restaurant for all purposes.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and attorneys’ fees.

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