Local News

Restaurant Exec Sought Gay Sex, Ex-Employee Says

Posted September 19, 2007 6:11 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2007 6:47 p.m. EDT

— The founder of one of the state's largest barbecue and fried chicken restaurant chains tried to coerce a former male employee into a homosexual relationship, the former employee testified Wednesday in a civil trial.

Jason Hallaman sued Gregory Moore, the founder of Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q, three years ago, claiming that Hallaman had been fired as Moore's personal assistant because he repeatedly rebuffed his boss' sexual advances. Moore has denied the allegations and countersued, and the trial in the case began Wednesday in Wake County.

Moore opened the first Smithfield's restaurant in 1980 and is the chief executive of Smithfield Management Corp., which operates the chain of 32 restaurants across eastern North Carolina.

Hallaman testified that he served as Moore's assistant between July 2002 and October 2002 and that the homosexual harassment from Moore began on his first day on the job.

"I was mortified and angry and upset,'" Hallaman testified. "(I told him) 'I'm not gay and you can't make me gay, and I'm not playing this game.'"

He said he drove Moore to the executive's beach house and lake house several times that summer, and Moore once climbed in the shower with him and another time came into his room and sat down on his bed.

"He's just running his hand up my leg, and I'm telling him that's not a good idea and I'm pushing his hand away. He said, 'I don't want to try to get fresh. I just want some company,'" Hallaman testified.

After he was fired, Hallaman said, Moore had him arrested and charged with trespassing and forgery. He said he had, at Moore's request, signed Moore's name to a check to pay for automobile detailing.

Moore admitted in pre-trial depositions that he is bisexual, but he denied making advances to Hallaman. He said Hallaman was fired for poor job performance and the dispute over the check.

Two other former Smithfield's employees, both men, also filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Moore. One was settled, and the second hasn't gone to trial yet.