After losing her culinary empire because of a discrimination lawsuit brought about by claims of racism by a former employee, Paula Deen has triumphed. A federal judge dismissed the case on Monday which means basically that she has won. But by “winning,” the irony cannot be lost on the southern celebrity cook who lost a large portion of her food based empire as a result of the lawsuit.
Former employee Lisa Jackson, who was the manager of Deen’s Savannah eatery claimed in 2012 that she had been sexually harassed and that she had to endure racially offensive conversation on top of employment issues that Jackson claimed were unfair to black workers. The restaurant, Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, was run by Deen’s brother Bubba Hiers and she is the co-owner.
Lisa Jackson’s allegations of racial discrimination were dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. The judge ruled that Jackson’s taking offense at what she claimed was improper treatment of black workers, and the additional stress suffered by her as a result, gave her no legal standing to instigate the lawsuit.
While the 66 year-old Deen was “cleared” of the racial discrimination charges by that portion of the lawsuit being thrown out, her brother Bubba Hiers still has to face charges that he sexually harassed Jackson when she worked at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House from 2005 to 2010.
Judge Moore has said that he has reserved the ability to rule on Paula Deen’s lawyers legal motion to dismiss further allegations in the lawsuit. If this happens, Hiers could be cleared of those charges as well. The fact that brother Bubba could win his part of the lawsuit just increases the irony of the whole situation.
Paula Deen and her image have suffered catastrophically as a result of the lawsuit and she also lost lucrative contracts. Lisa Jackson’s lawyer questioned Deen, under oath, about her use of racial slurs, and she admitted to having used unacceptable racial terms in the past. When the transcript of her deposition became public in June this year, it resulted in Ms Deen being dropped from the Food Network as well as other businesses.
Elena Weiss, Paula Deen’s publicist announced in a statement Monday that, “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.”
The District Court Judge’s move to dismiss the discrimination case came after Deen and her brother fired their legal team and hired a new one. Although a motion was already in place to drop the racial portion of the lawsuit back in December.
Deen’s legal team claim that Jackson’s lawsuit was “scurrilous” and based upon “false claims.” The lawyers also said that Jackson had also promised to publicly embarrass Paula Deen and her brother if they did not pay, “huge sums of money.”
For Paula Deen the irony of “winning” her portion of the lawsuit must be bitter. She may not have payed Ms Jackson the “huge sum of money” that her lawyers allege that the ex-employee asked for, but she has lost more in terms of income and public image because of the allegations. Deen must now begin that climb back up to rebuild her fortune and restore her name. If she can.
By Michael Smith