SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Attorneys for Savannah celebrity chef Paula Deen have urged a judge to dismiss a suit by a former employee of the family run enterprises as being filed for “improper and unethical purposes.”
The answer includes a letter purportedly written by plaintiff Lisa T. Jackson to Deen shortly before she left employment. The letter praises Deen, her businesses and brother Earl W. “Bubba” Hiers.
“The complaint makes patently clear that (Jackson) is not entitled to relief under the facts set forth in the lawsuit,” the response filed Monday in Chatham County Superior Court states.
“These allegations are cast for the sole purpose of creating scandal and providing leverage to (Jackson) (and) should be stricken as immaterial, impertinent and improperly cast for improper and unethical purposes,” Deen’s lawyers, led by I. Gregory Hodges and William Franklin, said.
Jackson, former general manager for Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House Inc., filed suit March 5 against Deen and her family run operation, which includes Lady & Sons Restaurant; “Bubba” Hiers, and his restaurant, for sexual harassment and a persistent pattern of racial discrimination in the workplace during her five-year employment there.
Her suit largely focused on Hiers and his operation of the Whitemarsh Island restaurant Uncle Bubba’s.
Deen’s lawyers contend the suit was an attempt to force a $1.25 million settlement of the claims under threat to Deen’s business reputation.
Hiers’ attorney has not filed an answer to the allegations.
Attached to the response filed before Judge Louisa Abbot is a letter purportedly written by Jackson to Deen on May 27, 2010 — about three months before she left employment with the defendants’ companies — praising her, Paula Deen Enterprises and Uncle Bubba’s.
It also sets out a plan to expand the business and “jumpstart the enterprise.”
“As you well know, people appreciate and respect you as a person and the personal struggles and stories that you have to tell,” Jackson’s letter said.
She also said that when she went to work as Uncle Bubba’s she “felt hopeless.”
“When I started working for Bubba, he gave me the opportunity that allowed me, over time, a freedom I have never experienced. … Since then I have become the independent woman I have always wanted to be. I have been given opportunities that I never thought possible, all because of you and Bubba.”
Specifically, Deen’s response to the suit contends Jackson’s claims fall because:
• Discriminatory wage practices are barred by statute of limitations of a year since Jackson’s last date of employment was Aug. 19, 2010, well over a year before her March 5 suit.
• Racial discrimination against black employees in the workplace since Jackson is white.
• Asserts only state law claims for which no cause of action exists under Georgia law.
• Does not allege standing to bring the claims since she does not allege any racial discrimination was directed to her.
• Allegations of racial discrimination should be stricken immediately since they are “spurious, and as importantly wholly irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent and improper” under Georgia law.
The response also includes a motion to strike from the suit “scandalous matter” they consider to be “immaterial (and) impertinent” in the complaint.