Paula Deen Hires Real-Life Olivia Pope, but the Supreme Court is the Fixer

But the Supreme Court played the ultimate fixer this week when it came to workplace discrimination.

By Jamilah King Jun 27, 2013

Paula Deen got some help from two unexpected sources this week.

After admitting to using the n-word in a legal deposition for a case in which she’s accused of discriminatory hiring practices, Deen has been at the center of a public firestorm. She was booted from her well known cooking show on the Food Network and lost a host of endorsements from companies that no longer want to be associated with her.

Olivia Pope to the rescue.

Well, actually it’s Judy Smith, the real-life inspiration for Kerry Washington’s character on Shonda Grimes’s hit ABC series "Scandal." Shadow and Act is reporting that Deen hired Smith & Co. to help clean up her public relations mess. 

While Smith certainly has her work cut out for her, the ultimate fixer this week turned out to be the Supreme Court, which just made it easier to get away with workplace discrimination.

First, it’s important to point out that Deen’s individual bias has dwarfed any real discussion of the institutional racism that’s really at work. Yes, Paula Deen has used the n-word. But what’s arguably more important is the fact that she’s at the center of a lawsuit over workplace discrimination. Even though race and sex are federally protected categories, racial bias at work still happens all too often. There were more than 150 lawsuits filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2012, the vast majority of which — 122 — centered on allegations of workplace discrimination based on race. 

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court made it a lot harder to prove that discrimination takes place. In one ruling, the court narrowed the definition of what constitutes a supervisor in racial and sexual harassment cases. And in another, the justices decided to adopt a tougher standard for workers to prove that they had faced retaliation for speaking up about discrimination. In one of her now infamous dissents, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the majority decision is "blind to the realities of the workplace."