Celebrity Chef Paula Deen, her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers, her company, and the corporations that operate a pair of restaurants she owns in Savannah, Georgia., are being sued by former employee Lisa Jackson.
A complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia in November, 2012, claimed that she was subjected to “violent, sexist, and racist behavior” during her five years’ employment by Deen.
In the deposition she filed in May, 2013, she proved to be her own worst enemy. Consider the following:
Speaking of her employee, Karl Schumacher, Deen said:
A. Karl is the most judgmental person I know. And out of every team member on our team, he is certainly the most prejudice.
Q. Prejudice against who?
A. You name it.
A. Gays, you name it. If you drink, you’re a bad person. If you use four-letter words, you’re a bad person. If you don’t think like he thinks, you’re a bad person.
Q. Is he–?
A. He is a one-man jury.
Stupid Mistake #16: She admits that she had retained an employee who was openly prejudiced toward a wide range of people: “Gays, you name it.”
Q. Is he prejudice against African-Americans?
A. I–no, I don’t–no, I would say the answer to that one would be no.
Stupid Mistake #17: Having already admitted the Schumacher was “a one-man jury” and “the most prejudice” of her employees, Deen suddenly claims he isn’t prejudiced against blacks.
MackWorks, a business consulting firm, conducted an investigation of Uncle Bubba’s, which is owned by her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers.
Q. Okay. And in order to determine that it was the opinion of these high-priced consultants that Miss Jackson had been the victim of discrimination sufficient to give her cause to file an EEOC [U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] all you would have had to do was read that report, correct?
A. I didn’t read the report.
Q. Okay. And what, if any, investigation have you done to determine if it is your brother who is lying, as opposed to Miss Jackson and Mr. Schumacher and the people at MackWorks?
A. I know my brother. I know his character. If I ask him something, he would not lie to me, nor would I to him. There was nothing to investigate.
Stupid Mistake #18: After an independent consulting firm gives her a scathing report about her brother’s restaurant, she doesn’t read it.
Stupid Mistake #19: She admits she didn’t read it.
Stupid Mistake #20: She admits she took no action to discover the truth for herself: “There was nothing to investigate.”
* * * * *
I have not searched through the entire deposition as given by Paula Deen. But the portion I have reviewed convinces me this was a lawsuit–and a disaster–waiting to happen.
The media has focused its attention on Deen’s admission to having used the “N-word.” But clearly she was running a dysfunctional operation–replete with alcoholism, racial prejudice, sexual harassment and theft.
Much has been made of Deen’s serving as an ambassador of Southern culture and cooking. But if only some of the accusations made against her hold up, she must also serve as an ambassador of a South decent Americans want to forget–and forever put behind them.
That was definitely an era when blacks knew their place–which was as slaves in the kitchens or fields of the Southern planter class who owned them.
According to Jackson, those are the days Deen would love to return to.
As proof, she cited an exchange that occurred when she was appointed by Deen to handle the catering and staff for Bubba’s wedding in 2007.
When she asked Deen what the servers should wear, Deen allegedly replied:
“Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.
“Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”
Deen has given lip service to knowing that the days of Southern racism are past. But according to the complaint filed against her by her former employee, Lisa Jackson, that past remains very much alive:
- Requiring black employees to use separate bathrooms and entrances from whites.
- Holding black employees to “different, more stringent standards” than whites.
- Allowing her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, to regularly made offensive racial remarks.
- Allowing Hiers to make inappropriate sexual comments.
- Allowing Hiers to force the plaintiff, Lisa Jackson, to look at pornography with him.
- Allowing Hiers to often violently shake employees.
- Allowing Hiersto come to work in “an almost constant state of intoxication.”
- Enabling Hiers’ behavior by ignoring Jackson’s efforts to discuss his behavior.
- Holding “racist views herself.”
Many of Deen’s supporters have claimed she is the victim of anti-Southern prejudice.
But the truth appears that only in the South could she have run so gigantic and lucrative an empire for so long in such prejucial and dysfunctional fashion.
The wonder is not that the Food Network refused to renew her contract after June, 2013. The wonder is that she has managed to stay in business this long.