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Paula Deen Sued for Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Paula Deen continues to be in the news, this time as a defendant in a lawsuit for sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. The popular TV show host co-owns a restaurant with her brother, Bubba Hiers, in Savannah. Uncle Bubba’s is the name of the restaurant where the alleged harassment took place.

Lisa Jackson, the general manager of Uncle Bubba’s for five years, has filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment while working at the restaurant. The sexual harassment allegedly occurred in several different ways. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Hiers frequently made sexual advances toward Ms. Jackson, watched pornography in their shared office, and said things that were very offensive. Ms. Jackson’s claim also states that when Ms. Deen promoted her to general manager of the restaurant, she said she was “going to do something I’ve never done. I’m going to put a woman in a man’s job.”

Sexual harassment can take different forms. Sometimes it is sexual in nature, such as when Mr. Hiers allegedly watched pornography in their office and made sexual advances towards Ms. Jackson. It can also occur when derogatory remarks are made about a person’s gender in general, which is what Ms. Deen supposedly did when she said she was going to give a man’s job to a woman. Ms. Jackson also claims she was paid less than her male counterparts in the restaurant industry. These types of harassment can make an employee feel uncomfortable in the workplace and result in a hostile work environment. In many cases, if the sexual advances are turned down, or if the employee reports the sexual harassment, the harasser may retaliate by wrongfully terminating an employee. Ms. Jackson is not claiming wrongful termination because she voluntarily left the job based on the advice of a physician who said working at the restaurant was detrimental to her mental well-being.

Ms. Jackson also claims that she witnessed several instances of racism by Mr. Hiers and Ms. Deen. While not directed at her, because she is white, the racism contributed to the hostile work environment. Mr. Hiers allegedly was violent toward black employees and made them use a separate restroom from the patrons while allowing white employees to use the patrons’ restroom. The suit says Ms. Deen overlooked her brother’s racist actions and used derogatory terms when talking about minorities.

Workplace discrimination unfortunately occurs frequently in the restaurant industry and in all other places of employment, but most people are unaware it is happening unless they are personally involved in the situation. This case is making headlines only because it involves a well-known celebrity. If you think you are being harassed or discriminated against in your workplace, please contact a Kentucky employment attorney to discuss the facts of your case. Just because your employer isn’t a celebrity doesn’t mean you should remain silent if you are being unfairly treated. The employment attorneys at Miller & Falkner can assist you with your discrimination case or any other work-related matter.

Sources:

Paula Deen’s controversial year; Yahoo.com
Paula Deen, brother, sued for sexual harassment
; WAVE; Joyce Eng; March 6, 2012