Race discrimination claims and a lawsuit filed by a former Savannah restaurant employee against Paula Deen, costing a valuable chunk of the celebrity cook’s Southern culinary empire, have been thrown out of court. A judge ruled that a white employee could not sue Deen over racial discrimination against black coworkers.
Lisa Jackson, who is white, worked for Deen and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, at their Savannah, Georgia restaurants. Jackson sued Deen and Hiers last year saying that she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother. Among the accusations, Jackson said black employees received unfair pay and were forced to use different entrances and bathrooms from white staffers.
In a 20-page opinion by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr., as reported by ABC News, Moore said that Jackson was not directly injured by racist comments but was at best an “accidental” victim.
“There are no allegations that defendant Hiers’ racially offensive comments were either directed toward the plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her,” he wrote. Moore did allow sexual harassment proceedings to continue.
It was during Deen’s deposition for the lawsuit that she admitted to using the N-word, although she later recanted during television interviews stating that it happened only once decades ago. The backlash against Deen caused the Food Network and at least 12 other corporate sponsors and business partners to end their relationships with Deen, costing millions of dollars in endorsement deals and a mutli-book publishing deal.