Race-based Claims Thrown Out in Paula Deen Lawsuit - FOX 35 News Orlando

Race-based Claims Thrown Out in Paula Deen Lawsuit

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA (AP) -

A federal judge Monday threw out race discrimination claims by a former Savannah restaurant manager whose lawsuit against Paula Deen has already cost the celebrity cook a valuable chunk of her culinary empire.

Lisa Jackson sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, last year saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother.

But claims of race discrimination by Jackson, who is white, were gutted in the 20-page opinion by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. The judge agreed with lawyers for Deen and Hiers that Jackson has no standing to sue her former employers for what she claims was poor treatment of black workers, regardless of her claims that she was offended and placed under additional stress.

Jackson, at best, "is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination," Moore said in his ruling. "There are no allegations that defendant Hiers's racially offensive comments were either directed toward plaintiff or made with the intent to harass her."

The ruling lets stand Jackson's claims that Hiers sexually harassed her when she worked at the restaurant from 2005 to 2010. However, the judge said he was reserving the chance to rule on requests from Deen's lawyers to dismiss other claims in the lawsuit.

The judge added that to allow Jackson to seek legal recourse for discrimination directed toward other workers "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."

Of course, Jackson's race-based claims have already resulted in serious damage to Deen's public image. It was Jackson's lawyer who questioned Deen under oath in May when she acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past. A transcript of the legal deposition became public in June, and the backlash against Deen caused the Food Network and other corporate sponsors and business partners to drop her.

 Still, Deen's publicist issued an upbeat statement Monday.

"We are pleased with the court's ruling today that Lisa Jackson's claims of race discrimination have been dismissed," Elana Weiss said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. "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."

Jackson's attorney, Matthew Billips, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Attorneys for Deen and Hiers also did not immediately return phone calls.

The judge's decision comes a month after Deen and Hiers dumped their attorneys and hired a new legal team. But the court motions seeking dismissal for all race-based claims in the case were filed in December, months before those changes were made.

In her lawsuit, Jackson had claimed Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant's front entrance and customer restrooms. She said she was personally offended because she had biracial nieces.

Attorneys for Deen have said in court filings that Jackson's lawsuit was based on "scurrilous and false claims." They said before Jackson filed suit, she threatened to embarrass Deen publicly unless she paid the ex-employee "huge sums of money."

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • 3-year-old shocked, downed power lines electrify fence

    3-year-old shocked, downed power lines electrify fence

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:51 PM EDT2014-07-30 02:51:19 GMT
    A 3-year-old boy is in the hospital after getting shocked by an electrical charge.
    A 3-year-old boy is in the hospital after getting shocked by an electrical charge.
  • Power outage numbers across southeast Michigan

    Power outage numbers across southeast Michigan

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 10:01 PM EDT2014-07-30 02:01:01 GMT
    As of 9 p.m., DTE Energy has restored power to 171,000 of the customers impacted by the high winds and lightning that hit southeast Michigan Sunday afternoon. Approximately 15,000 customers remain without power.
    As of 9 p.m., DTE Energy has restored power to 171,000 of the customers impacted by the high winds and lightning that hit southeast Michigan Sunday afternoon. Approximately 15,000 customers remain without power.
  • Detroit soccer team to compete for homeless world cup in New York

    Detroit soccer team to compete for homeless world cup in New York

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 9:03 PM EDT2014-07-30 01:03:06 GMT
    "Soccer's real popular right now, people are playing that have never played before," said Reginald Ikard. "It's a blessing, we're going to represent and try to win." Ikard is talking about his soccer team going to New York, representing Detroit with his teammates, all of whom used to be homeless.Sheilah Clay is president and CEO of the Neighborhood Service Organization."They didn't know anything about this, so it was an overwhelming thought of 'you want us to compete as a team and play in New...
    "Soccer's real popular right now, people are playing that have never played before," said Reginald Ikard. "It's a blessing, we're going to represent and try to win." Ikard is talking about his soccer team going to New York, representing Detroit with his teammates, all of whom used to be homeless.Sheilah Clay is president and CEO of the Neighborhood Service Organization."They didn't know anything about this, so it was an overwhelming thought of 'you want us to compete as a team and play in New...
  • Download the FOX 2 Apps


  • FOX 2 News Five-Day Forecast
  • What's HotMore>>

  • New hearing aid technology syncs with your iPhone

    New hearing aid technology syncs with your iPhone

    Friday, July 25 2014 9:03 PM EDT2014-07-26 01:03:18 GMT
    Ten percent of Americans have some hearing loss but most of the people who could get help from a hearing aid won't wear one because they are embarrassed. But now, new technology may change the way we feel about hearing aids.
    Ten percent of Americans have some hearing loss but most of the people who could get help from a hearing aid won't wear one because they are embarrassed. But now, new technology may change the way we feel about hearing aids.
  • The new way to capture your proposal on video

    The new way to capture your proposal on video

    Friday, July 25 2014 7:35 PM EDT2014-07-25 23:35:24 GMT
    It looks like an ordinary ring box, but it's designed with a hidden camera to capture your special moment.
    It looks like an ordinary ring box, but it's designed with a hidden camera to capture your special moment.
  • On Your Side: Samsung cell phone fire

    On Your Side: Samsung cell phone fire

    Thursday, July 24 2014 10:31 PM EDT2014-07-25 02:31:18 GMT
    A 13-year-old North Texas girl was awoken in the night by a smoldering cell phone on the other side of her pillow, but the cell phone manufacturer says she did something they warn users about.
    A 13-year-old North Texas girl was awoken in the night by a smoldering cell phone on the other side of her pillow, but the cell phone manufacturer says she did something they warn users about.
Powered by WorldNow

35 Skyline Drive
Lake Mary, FL 32746

Phone: (407) 644-3535
News Tips: (866) 55-FOX35

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices