Paula Deen hires new legal team for discrimination suit

Department stores Sears and Kmart have decided to discontinue the chef’s product lines.

Reuters July 14, 2013
Deen used the N-word, after which a lawsuit was filed against her. PHOTO: FILE

LOS ANGELES: Celebrity chef Paula Deen has hired new lawyers from an internationally known firm to defend her in a well-publicised employment discrimination lawsuit, according to court filings.

Deen, 66, who had a multimillion-dollar enterprise built on books, restaurants, television shows and housewares, has lost about a dozen business deals after a deposition surfaced last month in which the TV chef admitted to using the “N-word.”

Deen and her businesses will now be represented by Morgan Lewis & Bockius lawyers including Grace Speights, Jocelyn Cuttino and Alexis Thomas, said the court document filed on Thursday. Her former lawyers at Savannah, Georgia-based firm Oliver Maner asked to withdraw as counsel.

A spokeswoman for Morgan Lewis confirmed the move, and an Oliver Maner attorney said via email that the firm would issue a statement tomorrow.

Pharmacy chain Walgreens, department store JC Penney and Sears Holdings Corp, which owns department store Sears and discount retailer Kmart, all said last month they planned to discontinue Deen’s product lines.

Scripps Networks Interactive Inc’s cable TV channel the Food Network, which aired Deen’s cooking shows, was the first to drop Deen. A number of companies have severed ties with the chef, including Caesars Entertainment Corp, which operated Deen-branded restaurants; retailers Target Corp and Wal-Mart Stores Inc; and Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk A/S, which used Deen as a pitchwoman.

The lawsuit in a Georgia federal court involves claims of sexual harassment, and alleges a pattern of racial discrimination against African-American employees in Deen’s businesses.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.

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