The Associated Press reports that a federal judge in Georgia has thrown out the case of a former restaurant manager who filed suit against Paula Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers for racial discrimination.
Lisa Jackson was a manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House in Savannah, Georgia, for five years. She filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers for what Jackson cited as sexual harassment and racial discrimination. While the restaurant is run by the celebrity chef’s brother Bubba, Deen is a co-owner.
Jackson, who is a white, claimed that there was racially insensitive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black people in the restaurant, including alleging that African American employees were not permitted to use the same bathrooms and entrances as white employees. These discrimination claims were thrown out Monday by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. in a 20-page opinion that sided with Deen’s attorneys.
In the ruling, Judge Moore stated, “Jackson, at best, is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination. There are no allegations that defendant Hier's racially offensive comments were either directed toward plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her." Judge Moore has let stand the claims of sexual harassment. Jackson alleges that Hiers viewed and distributed pornographic materials in the workplace on more than one occasion.
While the throwing out of the race-based discrimination claims is a win for Deen’s attorney’s, the damage to the celebrity chef’s public image may be irreversible. The questioning by Jackson’s attorney about Deen’s use of racial slurs are what landed her in hot water in the first place, causing almost all of her sponsors to cut ties with the former Food Network star.
Despite vehement loyalty from Deen’s fans, there is no word yet on whether her sponsors will come flocking back. Elana Weiss, a spokesperson for Deen, said in a statement emailed to the AP, "We are pleased with the court's ruling today that Lisa Jackson's claims of race discrimination have been dismissed. As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone."