Race-Based Claims Thrown Out in Paula Deen Suit

A federal judge said that it was not the job of the court to mediate human resources problems.

By Jamilah King Aug 13, 2013

A federal judge in Georgia has ruled that the plaintiff at the center of a lawsuit against Paula Deen has no standing for the race-based claims in the suit. Why? Because the plaintiff is white.

Lisa Jackson, a white woman, sued Deen and her brother last year alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment and racist attitudes during her five years on Deen’s payroll.  When information from Deen’s deposition was made public, it led to a public relations meltdown; in addition to admitting that she used the n-word, Deen also fessed up to her fantasies about hosting a "traditional" southern dinner party in which black people dressed up as slaves. But most importantly, Deen was alleged to have paid her black employees less than minimum wage — even as her cooking empire grew to become one of the most recognizable brands in America.

Dora Charles, an African-American woman who worked as a cook at Paula Deen’s restaurant for years, described her experiences to the New York Times.

Mrs. Charles spent years making less than $10 an hour, even after Ms. Deen became a Food Network star. And there were tough moments. She said Ms. Deen used racial slurs. Once she wanted Mrs. Charles to ring a dinner bell in front of the restaurant, hollering for people to come and get it.

"I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,’ " Mrs. Charles said. "That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day."

But U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled that Jackson, the white plaintiff, could not rightfully sue for racial discrimination. Judge Moore said that it was not the job of the court to mediate human resources problems — apparently even if those disputes are against federal discrimination laws.