What did Paula Deen say to Ms. Jackson’s attorneys? In case you are interested, here is a link to Paula Deen’s Deposition Transcript. By the way, the Food Network decided that it will not renew her contract, which expires at the end of this month.
“Want to hear a funny joke”
A year ago, I posted on problems at Paula Deen’s restaurants. One of her former managers brought a lawsuit raising allegations of racial discrimination, racially insensitive language, and sexual harassment. Immediately after the allegations came to the surface, Deen’s attorneys denied any wrongdoing. Soon thereafter, Deen’s popularity continued. Going through supermarkets you see her on the cover of magazines. Personally, I do not watch cooking shows, but I suppose she has continued to make television appearances.
Now, nearly a year later recent reports suggests that there is merit to the former manager’s claims. The manager’s attorneys have taken the deposition of Ms. Deen and in the course of the deposition, she has made shocking admissions. She indicated that she was aware that her brother, a business partner, is into porn, her brother has problems with alcohol, and he uses cocaine. This is not a very good combination if you are a business owner.
Ms. Deen also admitted to using the “N Word,” by responding “yes of course.” I suppose she was suggesting that everyone talks that way. No Paula, we don’t. She testified that she tells black jokes, Jewish jokes, and redneck jokes, then added that she cannot determine what offends another person.
In writing this, I am certainly not advocating ultra sensitivity, but she has to be more intelligent than this if she wants to continue to run a business. Many corporations will devote an entire day annually training their supervisors and managers on discrimination and harassment. Unfortunately, Ms. Deen has failed to read the memo.
Given these facts, (and these are now facts, not mere allegations) I wonder how her attorneys were unable to persuade her to reach a settlement with the former manager.
Do you need an attorney to discuss discrimination, harassment or labor and employment law, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently ruled that firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Equal Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed suit on behalf of Donnicia Venters against her former employer Houston Funding II, LLC. The suit was based on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act because Venters alleged that her employer fired because she needed to breast feed her child. (For background see: Did Judge Get this Right? – Breastfeeding is Not Pregnancy Related). The district court or trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Houston Funding II and the EEOC filed an appeal.
On appeal, the Fifth Circuit considered, “whether discharging a female employee because she is lactating or expressing breast milk constitutes sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.” Reversing the district court, the Fifth Circuit answered the question in the affirmative.
The Court found that lactation is a physiological condition distinct to women who have undergone pregnancy. Therefore, under Title VII and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, firing a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk is unlawful sex discrimination, since men as a matter of biology could not be fired for such a reason. As a result of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Ms. Venters will be able to have her day in court.
If you have questions about employment discrimination or labor and employment law, give Rich Bradford a call at (813) 413-2402.
Coach Bobby Bowden will speak at the Tampa Bay Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on May 7, 2013.
At the Tampa Convention Center
May 7, 2013
7:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.
(Breakfast at 6:30 a.m.)
Individual tickets are $32.66 purchased on line through Eventbrite. After purchasing, print out your online ticket and bring with you to the Breakfast.
Tickets are available at the door for $35.00 and will be available on a first come, first served basis.
To order online go here: Tickets
or send a check to:
CBMC OF Tampa,
C/O Ferlita, Walsh, Gonzalez CPAs
3302 West Azeele Street
Tampa, FL 33609-4926
America’s Most Well Known College Football Coach
Bobby Bowden is known as much for his affable charm as he is for his championship teams. Having coached young men in seven decades, he became the second winningest coach in major college football history. Bowden guided Florida State University to more than three hundred victories, two national championships, twelve Atlantic Coast Conference titles, finishing in the top five in the country in 14 straight seasons, and led the Seminoles to Bowl Games in 28‐consecutive seasons during his 34‐year tenure. The patriarch of college football’s most famous coaching family, Bowden remains heavily involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes; annually awarding The National Bobby Bowden Award to a student‐athlete for achievement on and off the field, including his conduct as a faith model in the community. Bowden was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He and his wife of 61 years, Ann, live in Tallahassee, Florida.
Though I have not seen Beavis and Butthead in nearly 20 years, I am familiar with their middle school humor. Over the last week a situation played out that illustrated what would happen if Beavis and Butthead attended a Tech Conference.
Last week a woman by the name of Adria Richards, employed by a company called SendGrid, attended a conference called PyCon. From the photos, it looked like the conference had a few hundred (if not more than a thousand) attendees. Beavis and Butthead (not their real names – huh huh) happened to be sitting behind Ms. Richards. As the speaker started making technical references that I admit I know nothing about, Beavis and Butthead started cracking jokes.
Ms. Richards became annoyed and decided to alert the organizers of their conduct. Ms. Richards snapped a photo of the two men and attached the photo to a tweet of the jokes with the #pycon hashtag.
Soon thereafter the organizers removed the men from the conference. Upon returning to work, one of the men learned that he was losing his job. Right decision by employer? Probably not. But see my other posts on the at-will doctrine.
Now things really started to get weird. The Tech World did not take too kindly to the employment decision. Instead of going after Beavis’ employer, they went after Ms. Richards. She received death threats, rape threats, racial slurs including the N-bomb, and anti-semitic remarks. A few even publicized her personal information.
Ms. Richards’ employer was not oblivious to the firestorm, having received their own hate mail. So in the middle of last week, SendGrid published a message on their blog and Twitter stream announcing the termination of Ms. Richards’ employment. (??!!). While many in the Tech World celebrated her termination, others are left scratching their heads.
Having read this story from a number of sources, I could not help but think about its legal implications.
Although Beavis and Butthead’s conduct falls in the realm of harassment, it is doubtful that she would prevail if she pursued a harassment claim. Not only is an employee required to show unwelcome sexual conduct, he or she must also show that the conduct was so severe or pervasive as to create a hostile environment. Putting up with Beavis and Buthead jokes 8 hours a day, 5 days a week may create a hostile environment. However a few jokes here and there – huh huh – or isolated sexual remarks are not enough to get your case before a jury. It is also worth noting that the conference organizers took prompt, remedial action upon learning of the harassment.
Retaliation law presents a more difficult question. Retaliation occurs when someone asserts his or her rights under harassment law – i.e. complaining about harassment – and the employer takes adverse action for engaging in the protected activity. With respect to Ms. Richards’ case reasonable minds or a room full of highly talented employment attorneys could differ.
Notwithstanding the viability of any employment claim, it looks like SendGrid created more problems than expected by firing Ms. Richards. It did not take long for this story to go viral with it getting picked up by USA Today, Forbes, Ebony, and the first page/first story of Yahoo.
For whatever it is worth, the HR and legal teams in the Tech World need to engage in a massive mobilization effort to train employees and management on harassment law. As for Ms. Richards and Beavis, I am sure both have impressive backgrounds and it should not take them long to secure employment elsewhere.