Lawyers settle Paula Deen lawsuit in Georgia
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Lawyers signed a deal Friday to drop a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against celebrity cook Paula Deen, who was dropped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past.
A document filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah said both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit "without any award of costs or fees to any party." No other details of the agreement were released. The judge in the case had not signed an order to finalize the dismissal.
Former employee Lisa Jackson last year sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.
The dismissal deal came less than two weeks after Judge William T. Moore dismissed the race discrimination claims, ruling Jackson, who is white, had no standing to sue over what she said was poor treatment of black workers. He let Jackson's claims of sexual harassment stand, but those were dropped in the deal between the lawyers.
"While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved," Deen said in a statement Friday.
While Deen said in her statement that "those who truly know how I live my life know that I believe in kindness and fairness for everyone," she also promised to take a closer look at how her employees are treated.
"Moving forward my team and I are working to review the workplace environment issues that were raised in this matter and to retool all of my businesses operations," Deen said. "I look forward to getting back to doing what I love."
Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother. Jackson also claimed that Hiers sexually harassed her when she worked at the restaurant from 2005 to 2010.
Regardless of the truth behind Jackson's claims, her lawsuit resulted in serious damage to Deen's public image. It was Jackson's lawyer who questioned Deen under oath in May when she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. A transcript of the legal deposition became public in June, and the backlash against Deen caused the Food Network and other corporate sponsors and business partners to drop her.
The deal to resolve the suit comes little more than a month after Deen and Hiers dumped their attorneys and hired a new legal team.
In her lawsuit, Jackson had claimed Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant's front entrance and customer restrooms. She said she was personally offended because she had biracial nieces.
Attorneys for Deen said in court filings that Jackson's lawsuit was based on "scurrilous and false claims." They said before Jackson filed suit, she threatened to embarrass Deen publicly unless she paid the ex-employee "huge sums of money."