Paula Deen res­tau­rant called hos­tile work­place

The Washington Times Daily - - Life -

SA­VAN­NAH, GA. (AP) | The for­mer gen­eral man­ager of a Sa­van­nah res­tau­rant co-owned by Paula Deen claimed in a law­suit filed Mon­day that she was sex­u­ally harassed and sub­jected to a hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ment rife with sex­ual in­nu­endo, phys­i­cal in­tim­i­da­tion and racial slurs.

Lisa Jack­son said in the law­suit, filed in Chatham County Su­pe­rior Court, that her physi­cian en­cour­aged her to quit work­ing at Un­cle Bubba’s Seafood and Oys­ter House be­cause she suf­fered from panic at­tacks and other stress from work­ing there. The res­tau­rant is owned by Ms. Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers.

Ms. Jack­son said in the law­suit that Mr. Hiers rou­tinely made in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual and racial re­marks and that she heard both Mr. Hiers and Ms. Deen use racial slurs. She also said in the law­suit that she saw Mr. Hiers vi­o­lently shake a black em­ployee and that he fos­tered an en­vi­ron­ment of in­tim­i­da­tion.

A spokesman for Ms. Deen de­clined to com­ment on the pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion, and Mr. Hiers didn’t im­me­di­ately re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment.

Ms. Jack­son, who is white, was hired at the res­tau­rant in Fe­bru­ary 2005 and within months was pro­moted to gen­eral man­ager with a man­date from Ms. Deen to turn it into a suc­cess.

Mr. Hiers soon be­gan tar­get­ing her with un­wanted ad­vances, she said, and he watched pornog­ra­phy in the small of­fice that the two shared. He also dis­trib­uted pic­tures of two women hav­ing sex at an of­fice meet­ing and com­plained about heav­ier staff mem­bers, the com­plaint said.

She said Mr. Hiers made racially in­sen­si­tive re­marks and that his res­tau­rant re­quired black staff mem­bers to use the back en­trance and banned them from us­ing a cus­tomer re­stroom that white staffers were al­lowed to use.

Dur­ing one meet­ing in July 2010, she said, Mr. Hiers vi­o­lently shook a black male kitchen worker. Ms. Deen later in­vited the man to her man­sion to smooth things over rather than ad­dress her brother’s con­duct, the law­suit said. In an­other in­ci­dent, Mr. Hiers chal­lenged his staffers to a fight, she said.

Ms. Jack­son said she rou­tinely suf­fered from panic at­tacks that of­ten be­gan when Mr. Hiers came to work each morn­ing. The sit­u­a­tion came to a head in Au­gust 2010 when, Ms. Jack­son said, Mr. Hiers grabbed her face dur­ing a din­ner for ven­dors at the res­tau­rant and de­clared “I love you,” then later screamed at her and spit in her face.

Ms. Jack­son said she left her job days later af­ter her doc­tor sug­gested that quit­ting her job would im­prove her health. She said in the law­suit, which seeks un­spec­i­fied dam­ages, that she “con­tin­ues to en­dure im­mense pain and has suf­fered greatly at the hands of De­fen­dants’ out­ra­geous and in­tol­er­a­ble con­duct.”

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