Who is Paula Deen? Recently, this lady has been everywhere. Maybe I was hiding under a rock somewhere, but about four months ago, I had no idea who she was. Correction. Two months ago, I had no idea who she was. Now, she is all over the news.
After looking her up, I found out that she is famous for cooking. From out of nowhere this woman from Georgia has become a cooking celebrity. She probably should thank Oprah Winfrey for her recent fame.
Paula’s fame, however, is shifting towards infamy. Last week, the media reported that a former manager with one of Deen’s restaurants is suing Ms. Deen, and her brother, Bubba, for sexual harassment, infliction of emotional distress, and other legal claims.
Deen’s newly acquired empire could take a major tumble as a result of this lawsuit. The complaint indicates that Deen discussed African Americans in a demeaning matter. Specifically, the complaint accused Deen of dropping the “N-Bomb” and I am not talking about “nutritious.” One of the most troubling allegations, attributes to Deen the following quote:
“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little n—–s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.”
Last time I checked,America has not been too friendly towards racist celebrities. The momentum that recently made Deen a superstar is about to die and I anticipate that by this time next year no one will be talking about Deen.
According to the reports, the manager complained to Deen about her brother’s alleged sexual harassment and Deen failed to do anything to stop the harassment. After spending 5 years of putting up with Deen’s brother, the manager decided to leave the restaurant. Of course, the lawsuit soon followed.
Regarding the alleged racists statements made by Deen and her brother, I do not expect that the manager will get very far in advancing these claims. Based on the news reports, there is no indication that the manager was penalized for complaining about racist behavior. The manager is Caucasian and I do not think that the court will find these defendants liable for race discrimination against this manager. Still, the allegations of racist comments are damaging.
Deen’s failure to take action on the harassment allegations has the potential of creating significant liability for Deen’s restaurant. Deen’s brother had supervisory authority over the manager. He allegedly created a hostile environment for the manager. When the manager complained, neither Deen nor her brother did anything to stop his conduct. Under these facts, the manager should be able to advance a strong sexual harassment complaint against Deen’s restaurant.
Assuming the manager’s sexual harassment allegations are true, I wonder why Deen allowed this to happen. She probably spent a good portion of her life near her brother. Certainly, Deen knew that her brother had the propensity of committing acts of harassment. The first time that the manager complained, Deen should have had a heart to heart discussion with her brother, with the prospect of dissolving their business relationship being placed on the table. Business owners cannot afford to allow managers who are prone to engage in harassing conduct to remain on their leadership team. If Deen removed her brother or successfully persuaded him to change his behavior, no one in the media would be talking about his case. Given Deen’s failure to act, everyone is talking about this case, to include Deen’s use of the “N” word . . . allegedly.
For questions on dealing with discrimination and/or harassment, feel free to call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.