Lawyers for celebrity chef Paula Deen denied allegations of sexual harassment made by a former employee in a lawsuit filed Monday, Fox News reports.
In the suit, Lisa Jackson claims that she was the victim of repeated sexual harassment on the part of Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, who co-owns Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Ga. with Deen.
Jackson claims that Hiers constantly looked at pornography on the restaurant’s computer, and repeatedly made inappropriate sexist and racist comments.
After starting off as a hostess at the restaurant, Jackson was promoted to general manager in 2005, at which point she alleges she was subjected to a derogatory sexual remark by Hiers.
“If you think I have worked this hard to lose everything because of a piece of pussy, you better think again,” Hiers reportedly told her.
The suit also alleges that during a meeting at the restaurant, Hiers passed around a photo with the caption “Why gay marriage should be legal” with an accompanying photo of two women having sex.
According to Jackson, Hiers also once grabbed Jackson’s face, told her that he loved her, and then screamed and spat on her.
Jackson also recalls an instance when Hiers violently shook a black cook, and that there were separate bathrooms for white and black employees.
The suit also claims Deen made racist comments at the restaurant. “What I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties,” she allegedly said. “You know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it?”
Jackson says that these instances caused her to have severe anxiety and panic attacks so severe that her doctor told her to quit her job.
On Tuesday, Deen’s lawyers dismissed the claims in a statement:
“[Jackson] has made baseless, inflammatory allegations, threatening to go to the press and ruin Paula Deen’s reputation and the reputation of her businesses unless we paid her a large sum of money,” the statement said. “We refused to bow to that kind of pressure and refused to pay money to address false claims.”
Jackson is seeking unspecified damages.