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Judge dismisses racial bias claim against Paula Deen

Court says former manager was no more than an “accidental victim” of discrimination

There was a (likely butter-filled) celebration in Paula Deen’s home last night. A federal judge ruled Monday that a white former employee had no standing to bring claims of racial discrimination against the celebrity chef.

Lisa T. Jackson, who managed a Savannah, Ga., restaurant Deen owns with her brother, alleged that widespread discrimination against the restaurant’s black workers had created a hostile work environment. She also claimed the discrimination was “more personally offensive” since she has biracial nieces.

Judge William T. Moore, of the Federal District Court in Savannah, dismissed those claims, saying Jackson did not meet the standard for protection under federal law. He claimed Jackson was no more than “an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.”

Moore also cautioned against using the court as a mediator in employer/employee disputes, according to The New York Times. The judge said allowing the case to proceed would “serve to conscript federal courts as human-resources departments that are responsible for imposing and monitoring a federally created standard for harmony in the workplace.”

Earlier this summer, Deen’s deposition in the case made national news when she admitted using racial epithets in the past. Deen insists she does not tolerate prejudice, but the ensuing controversy caused Food Network to drop her from the channel’s programming.

The judge’s ruling does not spell the end of the Deen family’s legal trouble, however. Judge Moore’s order does not affect Jackson’s sexual harassment allegations against Earl W. Hiers, Deen’s brother. Jackson claims Hiers made lewd remarks towards her and displayed pornography at the Savannah restaurant.

 

For more issues of discrimination in the workplace, check out these InsideCounsel stories:

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Labor: Supreme Court clarifies definition of supervisor for Title VII discrimination and harassment cases

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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