Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will ruin a culinary empire. A federal judge recently threw out race discrimination claims made against Paula Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers.
Deen and Hiers were sued last year by the former manager of their restaurant “Uncle Bubba’s Seafood & Oyster House”. Lisa Jackson claimed that she suffered from sexual harassment and sexually offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers. US District Court Judge Willam T. Moore Jr. agreed with the defendants’ lawyers that Jackson—who is white—has no standing to sue her former employers for what she claims was poor treatment of black workers.
The former manager, at best, “is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination,” Moore said in his ruling. “There are no allegations that defendant Hiers’s racially offensive comments were either directed toward plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her.” Jackson claimed that Hiers’s racial slurs personally offended her because she has biracial nieces.
The sexual harassment claims made by Jackson still stand but the federal judge may still choose to dismiss those charges on the request from Hiers’s attorneys. Moore claimed that allowing Jackson to seek recourse for discrimination directed towards others “would serve to conscript federal courts as human resource departments that are responsible for imposing and monitoring a federally created standard for harmony in the workplace.”
Unfortunately, the most recent ruling is a hollow victory for Deen. Serious damage has been inflicted on her career when a transcript of the legal deposition—where she admitted to using racial slurs in the past—went public in June. The Food Network, other corporate sponsors and business partners have since cut ties with Deen.
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