Local News

Barbecue Exec Settles Sex Harassment Suit

Posted October 5, 2007 11:25 a.m. EDT
Updated October 5, 2007 3:25 p.m. EDT

— As jurors were about to consider punitive damages against him Friday, the chief executive of the Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q chain settled a former male employee's sexual harassment suit.

The jury on Thursday had ordered Gregory Moore to pay $1.15 million to Jason Hallaman, who said Moore fired him in 2002 as his personal assistant after Hallaman rebuffed sexual advances.

The jury gave Hallaman $750,000 in compensatory damages for loss of employment and an additional $400,000 for malicious prosecution because Moore brought criminal charges against him.

The settlement stopped the trial, preventing any consideration of punitive damages. The $1.15 million compensatory damage award remains intact, according to the clerk of courts office.

Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed, but Hallaman's attorney said his client was "satisfied" with the resolution to the case.

"What we can say right now is that the whole process is over with," attorney Rob Lane said. "It's been a five-year process for him."

The jury also had awarded Moore $1 in damages in a counter-suit in which he claimed that Hallaman trespassed in one of his properties and took furniture that belonged to Moore.

Several other former Smithfield's employees testified during the two-week trial that they also rejected Moore's overtures and were subsequently fired.

Moore tearfully acknowledged to jurors Sept. 28 that he is bisexual, but he denied doing anything wrong.

Moore's attorneys said Hallaman was fired because of poor job performance and because he forged Moore's name on a check. Hallaman alleged Moore filed criminal charges about that to get revenge.

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

Two other former Smithfield's employees, both men, also filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Moore. One suit was settled, and the second is pending.