Paula Deen's kitchen just got a few degrees hotter. The Food Network chef and Southern comforter extraordinaire got slapped with a lawsuit by a former employee of a restaurant, co-owned by Deen, who claims that the celebrity cook condoned an atmosphere of sexual harassment and racism, reported The L.A. Times. The lawsuit also claims that Deen used a racial epithet when referring to African Americans.
The lawsuit against Paul Deen was filed on Monday in Savannah, Ga., by Lisa T. Jackson, a former manager at Deen's Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, one of five restaurants in the chef's group. Uncle Bubba's Oyster House is co-owned by Deen and her brother, Earl W. Bubba Hiers.
The 33-page civil complaint details behavior by Hiers ranging from physical intimidation, displays of pornographic material and sexually degrading acts towards Jackson. Hiers reportedly forcibly kissed Jackson's cheek, spit on her and repeatedly used racial epithet.
Jackson, 48, left her job at the restaurant in August 2010. She is a white woman who managed numerous African American employees. She claims that over the course of five years she made numerous and frequent reports of racial and sexual harassment along with other troubling behavior to Deen and others in the restaurant's management group. However, these reports supposedly fell on deaf ears even though the inappropriate conduct was universally known.
In the Paul Deen lawsuit, Jackson alleges that the Southern chef told her she wanted a true Southern plantation-style wedding and, using the epithet, suggested African Americans wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tape 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.
Deen, Hiers and multiple Deen-owned companies are named as defendants in the lawsuit, reported The L.A. Times. Jackson is seeking unspecified damages for sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress and other charges.
It is unclear it the lawsuit against Paula Deen will hurt the celebrity chef's reputation. Deen is a star on the Food Network and her cookbooks have sold more than 8 million copies.
This lawsuit is not the only heated issue Paula Deen has had to deal with as of late. When Deen revealed that she had diabetes and was now a spokesperson for the drug Victoza, she faced a harsh backlash from critics. Many claimed that the butter-loving, rib-cooking chef was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle which could lead to diabetes and then promoting the sale of a diabetes drug.
I am who I am, Deen told the Associated Press. I think the South gets a bad rap sometimes, saying our food is very unhealthy, but frankly I don't think that's the case. I think it's like any other food, whether it be Italian, French, Cajun. They all can be very high in calories and that's where we have to practice portion control and moderation.