U.S. District Judge William T. Moore ruled yesterday that Deen’s former employee, Lisa Jackson, cannot claim to be a victim of racial discrimination against African Americans since she is Caucasian. In his ruling Moore wrote, “At best, plaintiff is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.” Deen still faces the other charges in the lawsuit which include sexual harassment and abusive treatment.
Earlier this summer, reports of a deposition, in which Deen admitted that she had used the n-word in the past were released. Although Deen apologized and insisted that she is not a racist, the controversy has not gone away. Deen was fired from the Food Network in June. The Food Network had made Paula Deen a household name. Her cooking show, Paula’s Home Cooking, first started airing in 2002. Since the release of the deposition Deen has has lost lucrative endorsements with Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target, JC Penny and Home Depot, among others.
Lisa Jackson worked for five years at two of Deen’s restaurants, The Lady and Sons and Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, both located in Savannah, Georgia. In her federal lawsuit she alleges that both Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, are guilty of several acts of violence, racism and discrimination. Jackson provided one example, claiming that the African American staff were only allowed to use the restaurant’s back door. Jackson claimed that this discrimination affected her negatively, and caused, “immense personal and work related emotional and physical distress” because “employees came to her to complain and for help, which she felt obligated to give but was unable to fully provide.” Jackson also alleges that she suffered because “the conduct denies her right to associate in the workplace with persons of other races,” and deprived her of “harmonious working relationships with her African-American subordinates” and denied her “the right to work free from racial harassment.”
Judge Moore disagreed. In his ruling he wrote, “There are no allegations that defendant Hiers’ racially offensive comments were either directed toward plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her.” Jackson, who began as a hostess at Bubba’s in 2005, also contends that Deen and Hiers are guilty of sexual harassment. The lawsuit says the restaurant was a “boy’s club” with only men in management positions, “and women are not invited to take on substantial decision-making roles.” Jackson, who was a general manager when she was fired in 2010, stated that Hiers sexually harassed her on “an almost daily basis.”
The judge further states that he could not allow Jackson to claim discrimination that was directed against other employees because that, ‘‘would serve to conscript federal courts as human resource departments that are responsible for imposing and monitoring a federally created standard for harmony in the workplace.’’
Deen’s publicist issued this statement regarding the ruling,‘‘We are pleased with the court’s ruling today that Lisa Jackson’s claims of race discrimination have been dismissed. As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness, and fairness for everyone.’’
By Karen Walcott