New testimony has surfaced in the depositions of Jackson’s female domestic partner, Priscilla Summerlin and Sandra Sikes, an employee at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House which could prove very damaging to Lisa Jackson’s discrimination and harassment lawsuit against Paula Deen.
Summerlin stated during deposition on February 13, 2013 that she did not believe that the other employees at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House shared Jackson’s feelings about the workplace conditions, as stated in Jackson’s complaint about the restaurant. Summerlin also stated that she did not recall Jackson claiming that Hiers asked her to watch pornography with him at the restaurant. During a bizarre deposition interview, Summerlin changed direction in her testimony at multiple points, and said that the difference between right and wrong is “debatable.”
During the deposition, Summerlin stated that she assisted Jackson in drafting the now infamous, “praise letter” just two months prior to Jackson’s abrupt resignation from the restaurant, and claimed that the words in the letter were genuine and expressed Lisa Jackson’s “heart-felt belief at the time.”
Does that [letter] fairly represent what her thoughts were concerning Paula Deen at the time?
In other words, she didn’t draft this letter as a big lie to Paula Deen, did she?
Well, you did have a conversation on May 27th, 2010 where Lisa Jackson expressed to you that Paula Deen was a role model for women, wasn’t she?
She was, yes.
And especially for those women who had started out in a place in life that would be less than fortunate, isn’t that true?
Summerlin and Jackson began dating approximately two and a half years after Jackson began working at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, and Jackson informed her repeatedly of racial and sexual harassment occurring on a daily basis in the workplace at the restaurant, according to her deposition testimony. The pair now share a home in Atlanta, Georgia where Jackson works at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, according to the deposition.
Jackson and Summerlin relocated to Atlanta two years ago, taking with them an iMac computer, Nikon digital camera, and a three-tiered plate stand that belonged to Uncle Bubba’s. Prior to leaving town, Summerlin and Jackson paid a computer repair store to replace the hard drive in the computer, according to the deposition.
Summerlin, a nurse practitioner, said it was, ”the same thing over and over, porn over the email, multiple discriminatory remarks regarding sex, sexual orientation, race, gender… It was a constant communication with her and Karl [Schumacher] about fair pay. I mean, I can remember it being as early as maybe fall of 2007, and it went through the end of her [Jackson's] employment.” However, Jackson helped Summerlin’s sister, Ashley Martinez be hired at Uncle Bubba’s, despite her knowledge of discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace.
Summerlin changed her testimony several times, stating that Jackson did not complain about sexual or racial harassment at the restaurant at all. She claimed she had not been aware of the working conditions at the time she recommended her sister to Jackson, her domestic partner in 2007. By this time, Jackson had been employed as General Manager for over two years, and claims that sexual harassment, sex and racial discrimination and violence were common practice in the workplace, beginning when she became employed at Uncle Bubba’s in 2005.
In 2007, when you began dating Miss Jackson did she tell you that she had been subjected to sexual harassment nearly every single day she came to work over the prior two and a half years?
Did she tell you that she was subjected to racial harassment nearly every single day she came to work over the prior two and a half years?
Not that I recall.
Did you ever ask her, by the way, how it is that she is able to manifest a claim for racial harassment in this case?
Summerlin later claimed that her knowledge of the incidents reported in Jackson’s complaint accumulated over a period of time, but she took no action to help her sister, Martinez or her domestic partner, Jackson to get out of the abusive environment. In fact, Summerlin wrote an employee handbook for Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House under the direction of Jackson in 2010.
“I know that the discussions started in probably late 2008 when things had gotten — I think it — from what I remember it…” she stated during deposition. However Summerlin could not recall any incidents of racial or sexual harassment or discrimination by Paula Deen, “I don’t have any off the top of my head…,” she said during her deposition.
Sikes also confirmed during deposition that Jackson never related to her any concerns or complaints about Bubba Hiers or management at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House throughout her tenure, despite Jackson’s claims in her complaint which launched the lawsuit last year.
During the deposition in February, Sikes recalled an incident at the restaurant when Jackson was recorded by security cameras, removing an empty syrup box from the trash, placing it on the floor in front of a tea urn, then photographing the scene in order to use it as evidence in a written reprimand of Sikes. “… that was not there when I left the night before,” she said during deposition. “So later that afternoon, I went and looked at the cameras and saw where she had actually taken it out of the trash can and put it on top of the tea urn and took a picture of it. So I showed it to Bubba to let her know I felt like she was setting me up.”
Jackson also claims in her lawsuit that Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House requires black employees to enter through the back door, use separate bathrooms, and does not hire black employees to work with customers. “I guess she [Jackson] hired or somebody hired an African American hostess,” Summerlin stated during deposition, “and Bubba requested that they be fired, which there were no African American front of house staff except for bussers, but I guess that’s technically back of house staff.”
Employees at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House disagree. Willie Smith, a server for the last nine years, made a statement on his Facebook page on July 1, denying that only whites are allowed to work in the front with guests at the restaurant. Smith stated, “I’ve worked at Ms. Deen’s restaurant for close to nine years and I’m as “BLACK” as they come. I was never forced to enter through the back door. It’s a rule that ALL employees enter through the back door… Many of her staff in the front house are black.”
Deen’s other restaurant, Lady and Sons features an Employee of the Month section, demonstrating a history of recognition of employees back to 2009. Many of those recognized for outstanding service are black, front house workers, including servers.
Claims of sexual misconduct and harassment are a continuing trend for Jackson. Summerlin stated that Jackson claimed to have been raped on multiple occasions and received counseling, and she recalled a recent incident of sexual assault in the workplace. Summerlin stated that Jackson worked as the General Manager at Cafe Intermezzo in Atlanta, Georgia then as an independent contractor in various positions. During her employment at Cafe Intermezzo, Jackson was witness to “inappropriate behavior with other staff members,” she said. During deposition, she stated, ”They had a history of sexually inappropriate relationships, I guess you could say. My understanding was that either the owner or a manager witnessed a very intoxicated employee being forced into intercourse with multiple people.” The incident apparently went unreported.
You know the difference between right and wrong, don’t you?
It’s all debatable.
Oh it is?
Oh, it is.
Summerlin’s deposition also revealed that in the early Spring of 2009, Lisa Jackson attended four EEOC mediations for claims that had been filed against her while working at Uncle Bubba’s. Four women filed claims, accusing Jackson of age discrimination and retaliation. In one case, Jackson had a falling out with a manager, Elaine Thomas and became enraged, telling Thomas to “get the f–k out of the restaurant.”
This wasn’t the only case where Jackson lost her temper in the restaurant. A person speaking under conditions of anonymity told Stitches ‘n Dishes that the problems became apparent shortly after Jackson started in her position at Uncle Bubba’s.
“She’d lose her temper in front of customers. There was always a fight between her and the customers, and she’d throw them out. Long-time employees resigned from Bubba’s, because they refused to work with Lisa Jackson.”
Paula Deen fans continue to support Deen. The We Support Paula Deen Facebook page launched the Butter Wrappers for Paula campaign to send a message to the corporations that have severed ties with the cook with Southern charm. The company that publishes Paula Deen’s magazine heard the message. ”Readers said if we dropped the magazine they would cancel subscriptions to other magazines we publish,” Hoffman told New York Post.
“In the eight years that we have collaborated with Ms. Deen, we have witnessed her consistent generosity toward numerous charities, from hunger relief and battered women to a Savannah-based orphanage, to name a few,” company Vice President Eric Hoffman said in a press release.
Hoffman Media began publishing Cooking With Paula Deen six times a year beginning in 2005. The magazine reaches approximately 350,000 readers. Hoffman Media is one of the few companies that still support Paula Deen, and announced that it will publish Deen’s new cookbook, Paula Deen’s New Testament which was dropped by Ballantine Books last week.
Deen also announced this morning that she’s parted ways with long-time manager Barry Weiner, as she embarks on a new direction for Paula Deen Enterprises.
“Paula Deen has separated from her agent,” Deen’s spokeswoman, Elana Weiss, said in an email Thursday. “She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years.”