Labor & Employment

Paula Deen wins dismissal of racial bias claim by white plaintiff


A federal judge in Savannah has ruled a white plaintiff who worked at a Georgia restaurant owned by Paula Deen and her brother has no standing to pursue a racial bias claim.

U.S. District Judge William Moore Jr. said plaintiff Lisa Jackson is no more than “an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination,” report the Associated Press, the Savannah Morning News and the New York Times. Jackson, a former manager at Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, had claimed Deen’s brother, Bubba Hiers, had made racial jokes and barred black workers from using the restaurant’s front entrance and customer restrooms.

Jackson had claimed she was affected by racial bias because it deprived her of harmonious working relationships with African Americans whom she supervised and denied her the right to be free of racial harassment. Moore disagreed in the Aug. 12 opinion (PDF).

“Even setting aside the absurd results that could follow from allowing such a claim,” Moore said, “to use Title VII in this manner 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. Quite simply, workplace harmony is not an interest sought to be protected by Title VII.”

Jackson is also claiming sexual harassment by Hiers. Moore said he was reserving ruling on other arguments in the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Deen’s career took a nosedive after she admitted in a deposition that she had previously used the N-word. The Food Network did not renew her contract. Other corporate sponsors and business partners also abandoned the chef. In July Deen hired new lawyers at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

A spokeswoman for Deen said the chef “is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone.”

Updated on Aug. 14. to correct typo.

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