Woman claims harassment at Paula Deen-owned restaurant

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Lisa Jackson said she was hired to work as a hostess at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah in February 2005 and was promoted to general manager that August, according to the lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Chatham County.

In a meeting with Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, Jackson was given six months to turn a failing restaurant around, the suit states.

"... Now I'm going to do something I've never done. I'm going to put a woman in a man's job," Deen allegedly told Jackson.

The harassment continued for five years until Jackson quit in August 2010, her attorney, Wesley Woolf, told the AJC.

"Every single day she came to the work place, she encountered this harassment," Woolf said.

The suit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages.

A spokesman for Deen declined to comment on the pending litigation, and Hiers didn't immediately return calls seeking comment.

The lawsuit also contends that Jackson was not paid as much as her male counterparts and was asked by Hiers to bring in pictures of herself when she was younger. Hiers frequently made sexually-based comments to Jackson, the suit states.

Hiers targeted her with unwanted advances, she said, and he watched pornography in the small office the two shared. He also distributed pictures of two women having sex at an office meeting and complained about heavier staff members, the complaint said.

Additionally, the suit alleges that Hiers and Deen made racially derogatory comments about the black workers in the restaurant. Jackson is white.

Black employees, according to the lawsuit, were required to use a restroom in the back of the restaurant while white employees could use the customer restroom.

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

Jackson said she routinely suffered from panic attacks that often began when Hiers came to work each morning. The situation came to a head in August 2010 when Jackson said 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 said she left her job days later after her doctor suggested quitting her job would improve her health. She said in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, that she "continues to endure immense pain and has suffered greatly at the hands of Defendants' outrageous and intolerable conduct."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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