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Gag order rejected in Paula Deen harassment lawsuit

1:24 PM, Mar 7, 2012   |    comments
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Paula Deen (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images File)

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A Chatham County judge has rejected a request for a gag order restricting pre-trial comments in a sexual harassment lawsuit against celebrity chef Paula Deen and her brother.

A former general manager of a Savannah restaurant co-owned by Deen and her brother claims she was harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment rife with sexual innuendo, physical intimidation and racial slurs. Lisa Jackson filed a lawsuit against Deen and Earl "Bubba" Hiers on Monday.

READ THE LAWSUIT | Jackson v. Deen
PHOTOS | Paula Deen

Deen's law firm, Oliver Maner LLP, issued a statement Tuesday saying Jackson "makes false allegations against Paula Deen and they will be proven false in court."

The Savannah Morning News reports Deen's attorneys had asked for a gag order, but Judge Louisa Abbot said she would file an order denying their request.

In the lawsuit, Jackson claims Deen's brother routinely made inappropriate sexual and racial remarks and that she heard both Deen and him use racial slurs while she was working at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.

The lawsuit claims black staff members were required to use the back entrance and were banned from using a customer restroom that white staffers were allowed to use.

Jackson claims during one meeting in July 2010, Hiers violently shook a black male kitchen worker and Deen later decided to invite the man to her mansion to smooth things over rather than address her brother's conduct. In another incident, Jackson says Hiers challenged his staffers to a fight.

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

She claims Hiers soon began targeting her with unwanted advances and watched pornography in the small office the two shared. Her complaint also says he distributed pictures of two women having sex at an office meeting and complained about heavier staff members.

Jackson says her panic attacks often began when Hiers came to work each morning. The lawsuit says the situation came to a head in August 2010 when Jackson says 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.

Jackson says she left her job days later after her doctor suggested quitting would improve her health. In the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, Jackson says she "continues to endure immense pain and has suffered greatly at the hands of Defendants' outrageous and intolerable conduct."

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  • (Associated Press)

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