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Sides agree to drop Paula Deen discrimination suit

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 23, 2013 at 6:40 pm •  Published: August 23, 2013
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Retailers including Wal-Mart and Target said they'll no longer sell Deen's products and publisher Ballantine scuttled plans for her upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. 1 seller on Amazon. Deen also parted company with her longtime New York agent, Barry Weiner, who had worked to turn Deen into a comfort-food queen since she was little more than a Savannah restaurant owner and self-publisher of cookbooks.

The judge issued an order Friday saying he still plans a hearing on whether Jackson's lead attorney, Matthew Billips, should be sanctioned for what Deen's lawyers called unprofessional conduct in the case. In earlier court filings Deen's lawyers said Billips threatened Deen with embarrassing media exposure, made inappropriate comments about the cook and the lawsuit on Twitter and purposefully asked Deen embarrassing questions that weren't relevant to the case during her deposition.

However, a filing by Deen's attorneys asked the judge to drop their motion for sanctions against Billips.

Billips declined to comment on the lawsuit resolution other than to say "the matter has been amicably resolved." Deen attorneys Grace Speights and Harvey Weitz did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Forbes magazine last year ranked Deen as the fourth-highest-earning celebrity cook last year, figuring she had hauled in $17 million. Her company Paula Deen Enterprises generates total annual revenue of nearly $100 million, according to Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

In her statement Friday, Deen said 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.

"I look forward to getting back to doing what I love," she said.

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."