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Harassment lawsuit against celebrity chef Paula Deen dismissed

Food Network television personality Paula Deen cheers for her husband Michael Groover during the semi-finals of the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Al
Food Network television personality Paula Deen cheers for her husband Michael Groover during the semi-finals of the "Papa" Hemingway Look-Al

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday dismissed the final component of a racial discrimination and sexual harassment case against celebrity chef Paula Deen that has cost the Southern culinary star a big chunk of her multimillion-dollar enterprise.

In dismissing the sexual harassment aspect of the case, U.S. District Judge William Moore wrote that no fees were awarded to either party, according to court documents. The two parties reached a settlement, said a person familiar with the case, and Moore's dismissal did not address the merits.

The lawsuit against Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, was brought by Lisa Jackson, a five-year employee of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, a restaurant owned by the siblings in Savannah, Georgia.

Jackson claimed she had been the victim of sexual harassment. Jackson, who is white, also alleged there was a pattern of racial discrimination against black employees at the restaurant.

Earlier this month, Moore dismissed the racial discrimination allegations because any racially offensive remarks were not directed at Jackson or intended to harass Jackson.

Deen, 66, said in a deposition in the case that she had used a racial slur, an admission that prompted Scripps Networks Interactive Inc to drop her cooking show from its cable television channel, the Food Network.

Other companies, including Smithfield Foods Inc, pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk and retailers Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Home Depot Inc and Target Corp, also rushed to cut their ties with Deen, dropping her as a celebrity endorser and announcing they would no longer carry the cookbooks, housewares and other products that helped Deen build a multimillion-dollar enterprise.

In a statement, Deen said she believes in "kindness and fairness for everyone."

"While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved," Deen said. "I am confident that those who truly know how I live my life know that I believe in kindness and fairness for everyone."

Jackson released a statement through Deen's spokeswoman in which she called Deen a "woman of compassion and kindness."

"During a very difficult period in my life the Deen family gave me hope and the opportunity to work to build a brighter future for my family and me," she said. "I assumed that all of my complaints about the workplace environment were getting to Paula Deen, but I learned during this matter that this was not the case."

(Reporting by Edith Honan in New York; Editing by Paul Thomasch, Bill Trott and Lisa Shumaker)

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