Paula Deen accuser can’t sue her for racism because she’s white, judge rules
By Andy Soltis
The woman who sliced and diced Paula Deen’s cooking empire by accusing the celebrity chef of using the N-word can’t sue her for racism — because the accuser is white.
A federal judge in Georgia threw out some of the most explosive claims by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers.
Jackson had charged that she was subjected to racist attitudes and harassment during the five years she worked at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House.
Despite Deen’s apologies on YouTube and a tearful interview on the “Today” show, her folksy foodie brand was ruined by the charges.
She was fired from The Food Network, on which she had three cooking shows, found that her publisher had canceled her next project — a certain best seller — and lost lucrative marketing deals with major retailers.
But yesterday, US District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr., ruled that Jackson had no grounds for playing the race card because she wasn’t the right race.
Moore agreed with Deen’s lawyers, who said Jackson lacked “standing” because as a white woman she could not show that she suffered racial discrimination. Jackson had claimed she was offended because she had biracial nieces.
But the judge said that wasn’t enough to justify a lawsuit based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act provision that bars racial discrimination in the workplace.
Jackson, at most, “is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination,” Moore said.
Moore also said Deen’s and Hiers’ racial attitudes had poisoned her “relationship with African-American subordinates.”
Moore said Jackson “may have faced significant challenges in managing a workplace allegedly permeated with racial discrimination” — but that wasn’t sufficient grounds for a suit.
Allowing Jackson to sue because of discrimination directed toward other workers “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,” he wrote.
The judge’s 20-page ruling leaves intact Jackson’s sexual-harassment claims. But the ruling was a major victory for Deen.
“We are pleased with the court’s ruling today that Lisa Jackson’s claims of race discrimination have been dismissed,” her publicist said.
Jackson filed the suit last year, saying Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant’s front entrance and customer restrooms.
Deen was questioned in a deposition that became public in June and set off a torrent of criticism. In it, Deen acknowledged she had used the N-word in the past but added, “That’s just not a word that we use as time has gone on.”
Her company said her use of the slur was a result of her upbringing. “She was born 60 years ago, when America’s South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus,” the firm said. “This is not today.”