(Savannah, GA) Attorneys for popular celebrity chef Paula Deen are pushing back when it comes to allegations made recently in a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claims gender discrimination (in pay) and who also says she witnessed racial discrimination. In papers filed in Chatham County Superior Court, Deen's attorneys say the suit should be dismissed and was filed for improper and unethical reasons.
The suit, filed by Lisa T. Jackson received a good amount of publicity when it became public a few weeks ago. Jackson named as defendants Paula Deen, Paula Deen Enterprises, LLC, the Lady and Sons, LLC, The Lady Enterprises, Inc. Earl W. "Bubba" Hiers, (Deen's brother) and Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.
Jackson alleged that while employed for Hiers, she was subjected to sexual harassment, pay discrimination and while she is Caucasian, Jackson also charged she heard racial slurs and witnessed inappropriate behavior toward African Americans.
Deen's attorneys says the claims of pay inequality and sexual harassment and discrimination should be barred because the statute of limitations to make these claims has run out. Attorneys also refer to an allegation made by Jackson that Paula Deen made a racially derogatory statement regarding a wedding and the manner in which an African American should dress. In papers filed, attorneys said "Ms. Deen vehemently denies these and other allegations of wrong doing."
In another part of the filing, Jackson said that one of the managers of the restaurant told jokes about President Obama using the N-word. Jackson alleged the racially charged action were "outrageous and caused her severe emotional distress."
But Deen's attorneys said many of the allegations are immaterial and were "cast for the sole purpose of creating scandal and providing leverage to Plaintiff."
Deen's attorneys said in their fillings that "allegations of racial discrimination should be stricken immediately...these allegations are spurious and made for the sole purpose of obtaining leverage in a lawsuit and creating a media firestorm."
They filed a letter (with the court) from Jackson's attorney S. Wesley Woolf, dated January 31, 2011 in which Woolf stated that "We are willing to sign a settlement agreement which includes a confidential provision for $1.25 million." The attorney went on to say "if we are unable to settle, the complaint will not be quietly filed. I am making arrangements for a press conference on the day of filing." After no settlement was either offered or no settlement could be agreed upon, the lawsuit was filed on March 5.
In their filings, Deen's attorneys also included a complimentary letter written by Jackson to Deen in May of 2010 (shortly before Jackon left Deen's employ) in which Jackson tells Deen "I have been given opportunities that I never thought possible, all because of you and Bubba."