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Race Discrimination Claims Against Paula Deen Dismissed

This probably will not be my last post on the Paula Deen case.  In an interesting, if not predictable, development, U.S. District Judge William T. Moore dismissed the racial discrimination portion of Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit.

In case you missed it, the Paula Deen story was a hot topic in the news and internet during June and July. In the spring of 2012, a former manager at one of Deen’s restaurants brought a lawsuit against the restaurant, Paula Deen and her brother Bubba.  Jackson alleged that she was the victim of sexual harassment by Bubba.  In addition to harassment claims, Jackson, who is white, brought claims of racial discrimination against the defendants who allegedly made racial slurs about African Americans.  Fast forward to May 2013, and Paula Deen has her deposition taken.  Paula Deen admits using the “N-word” in the past, approximately 25-30 years ago.  She also admits that jokes were told at work – black jokes, Jewish jokes, redneck jokes.  To be fair to Paula, there was no indication that she told the jokes.  See Paula’s deposition transcript here.

Sometime in June 2013, Deen’s deposition transcript hits the press.  Many labeled Paula Deen a racist and threatened to boycott the Food Network.  The Food Network decided not to renew Deen’s contract, which was due to expire June 30, 2013.  Deen’s fans are upset and have decided to boycott the Food Network.  Later, Wal Mart released Paula Deen and K-Mart, and Smithfield Foods, Home Depot, etc. etc. all released Paula Deen.    Some guess that the impact of these severed relationships is in the neighborhood of $12 million.  By the way, in the last week of June, Paula Deen was bigger news than the Supreme Court’s decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8.

When Jackson filed her lawsuit it was reported that she was seeking $1.2 million.  Understand that I am not trying to play Monday morning QB, but if Deen’s attorneys had convinced her to settle for $750-900k, she probably would not have lost her $12 million empire.  Remember this all started when Jackson quit because she alleged sexual harassment by Bubba.  Moreover, the sexual harassment claim is viable.  Paula testified that Bubba would look at porn at work.   Because the case did not settle, Deen’s deposition became public, Deen has been labeled a racist, and Corporate America has decided to distance itself from her.

Ironically, the judge dismissed the race discrimination case.  Near the end of a twenty page decision on race discrimination, Judge Moore ruled:

Plaintiff is not an aggrieved party under Title VII because her interests are not arguably sought to be protected by that statute.  At best, Plaintiff is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.  There are no allegations that Defendant Hier’s racially offensive comments were either directed toward Plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her.

See Judge Moore’s August 12, Order.

For whatever its worth, the lawyers on both sides are working very hard on this case.   There is little doubt that the next move by either side will generate further interest in the Paula Deen saga.

If you have questions about employment discrimination or labor and employment law, give Rich Bradford a call at (813) 413-2402.

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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Paula Deen’s Deposition Transcript

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.

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Related Posts:  Paula Deen Sexual Harassment Update – “They’re Just Jokes;” Sexual Harassment: Managing the Mess Created By Paula Deen’s Bubba

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Paula Deen Sexual Harassment Update – “They’re Just Jokes”

“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.

See also:  Paula Deen Admits Use of N-Word & Making Racial Jokes at Deposition;Sexual Harassment: Managing the Mess Created By Paula Deen’s “Bubba”;Paula Deen Racist Deposition Stuns the Web

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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Retaliation Lawsuit Filed Against Janitorial Company

Cynthia Williams, an African American woman, worked for a company called Paramount Janitorial Services.  Paramount Janitorial Services is a Virginia based “full-service” janitorial company.  Williams complained to the owner of the company stating that her supervisor made racial slurs and threats, including calling her the “N” word and threatening to beat her with his “n***** stick.”

At first blush, it appears that Ms. Williams followed the steps to protect herself from further harassment.  In the response, the owner could have taken prompt remedial action by counseling the supervisor, separating Ms. Williams from her supervisor, and/or firing the supervisor.  At this stage, the actions of the owner are unknown.   If Ms. Williams’ version of the events is true, Paramount Janitorial Services failed to take prompt remedial action.  Two days after complaining to the owner, the supervisor fired Ms. Williams.

After efforts to settle the matter failed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Williams.   To prevail, Ms. Williams must show that she engaged in activity protected by discrimination law, that she suffered an adverse employment action, and that the adverse action was causally related to the protected activity.  The EEOC is seeking to recover back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in this case.

Unfortunately, cases like these occur more often than we are ready to admit.  The actions that the owner should have taken to avoid suit are spelled out above.  If you have questions about retaliation or other employment law issues, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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