Local News

Judge: BBQ exec must pay sex harassment settlement

Posted December 16, 2008 10:35 a.m. EST

— A Superior Court judge has ordered the chief executive of the Smithfield's Chicken 'n Bar-B-Q chain to pay a settlement reached last year to end a former male employee's sexual harassment lawsuit.

Following a two-week trial, a jury in October 2007 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. Jurors were set to consider punitive damages against Moore when he and Hallaman agreed on a settlement.

Under the settlement, Moore was to pay Hallaman $449,200 in three installments, and he also was to pay Hallaman's attorneys $375,780 in three installments.

After making the first payments to Hallaman and his attorneys, Moore skipped the second and third installments and tried to have the settlement voided. He said Hallaman's attorneys bribed witnesses to testify in the sex harassment case.

Several former Smithfield's employees testified during the 2007 trial that they also rejected Moore's overtures and were subsequently fired.

Moore tearfully acknowledged to jurors that he is bisexual, but he denied doing anything wrong. He said he fired Hallaman because of poor job performance and because Hallaman had forged his name on a check.

In a judgment filed last week, Superior Court Judge Abraham Jones dismissed Moore's claims seeking to void the settlement, saying Hallaman's attorneys paid travel costs for witnesses who lived out of state and to compensate them for income lost to attend the trial. Both are common practices, the judge ruled.

Jones ordered Moore to pay the $260,000 still owed to Hallaman and the $165,000 still owed to the attorneys, plus any interest accrued from the dates the payments were originally due.

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