In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Social commentary on July 2, 2013 at 12:15 am

Here’s a brief chronology of the downfall of celebrity chef Paula Deen:

On May 17, Deen gave a deposition in a $1.2 million discrimination lawsuit filed against herself and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers, by Lisa Jackson, a former General Manager at one of her restaurants.

Earl “Bubba” Hiers and Paula Deen

On June 19, the National Enquirer released details about that deposition.  When asked if she had ever used the word, “nigger,” she replied: “Yes, of course,” as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

She claimed she used it when telling her husband about being held at gunpoint by a black bank robber.  When asked if she had used it since, she replied: “I’m sure I have, but it’s been a very long time.”

On June 20, the full unedited transcript of the deposition was leaked.

Since then, Deen has been caught up in a media frenzy–and the loss of most of her high-priced collaborators:

  • The Food Network
  • QVC’s Home Shopping Network
  • Smithfield Foods–a company specializing in pork products
  • Wal-Mart
  • Ceasars Entertainment
  • Novo Nordisk, a diabetes drug company
  • Sears Holdings Corporation, the owner of Sears and K-Mart
  • Walgreens

And although her latest book, Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up, had risen to Number 1 on Amazon.com, its publisher, Ballantine Books, announced that it had decided to cancel its upcoming publication.

The media has focused exclusively on Deen’s use of “nigger.”  In doing so, it has completely ignored even more important aspects of this lawsuit.

Consider the allegations listed in the complaint filed by Lisa Jackson, who spent five years (2005 – 2010) as General Manager for Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, in Savannah, Georgia.

According to the complaint, managers at the restaurant–owned by Deen’s brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers–often engaged in the following practices:

  • Subjecting Jackson to “violent behavior,” which included “racial harassment, assault, battery and other humiliating conduct.”
  • Upon her promotion to General Manager, Hiers told Jackson: “You’re everything I’ve never wanted but everything I need–a woman to clean my business up.”  He advised Jackson to “take it [his comment] as a compliment.”
  • For Jackson’s money-saving efforts, Karl Schumacher, the Chief Financial Officer for Paula Deen Enterprises, referred to her  as “almost Jewish,” and Hiers called Jackson “my little Jew girl.”
  • Paula Deen Enterprises paid for “Uncle Bubba’s restaurant expense to remedy violations of the Occupational Safety and health Act; as well as …to remedy City Health Code violations in Uncle Bubba’s restaurant kitchen.”
  • Hiers several times told Jackson: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my sister [Paula Deen] if it ever comes down to firing a guy or a girl, you let the girl go because they are a dime a dozen and you can always find a girl to come work for you but it’s hard to find good buys.”
  • Jackson often complained to upper management that “she was not paid a salary equal to [that of] her male counterparts.”
  • When she requested a raise in 2007, Schumacher told Jackson that Hiers would not permit a woman to be paid any more than she was already paid: “Bubba Hiers would have a heart attack if he knew you were being paid this much.”
  • When Jackson expressed concerns over compensation, Deen scheduled a meeting.  Pointing at the women managers there, Deen said: “You all need to work together and become one.”  The male managers at the meeting were never addressed.
  • “The male General Manager of the Lady & Sons Restaurant is paid substantially more than…Jackson despite his general incompetence, his performance of fewer duties than…Jackson, and his oppressive sexual and racial harassment of employees.”
  • Jackson “received a bonus, as other managers did, for approximately six months, but bonus payments were withdrawn and taken away by…Schumacher immediately upon her divorce.  This occurred in the context of numerous remarks by…Schumacher regarding his religious views of marriage and the sin of divorce.”
  • Schumacher stated in Jackson’s presence: “Women are stupid because they think they can work and have babies and get everything done.”
  • Jackson was told by Director of Operations Theresa Fueger: “You know the family dynamics in the company.  Certain people are not going anywhere, and if you don’t like it, you can go find another job.”
  • Hiers, Deen’s brother, “is a frequent customer of pornography Web sites and would download and view such sites at work.  In the small office he shared with Ms. Jackson, it was impossible for her to avoid viewing the pornography.”
  • “Alternately, he visited those Websites on the kitchen computer, often forgetting to log out; whereupon other employees involuntarily shared his pornography adventure.”
  • “On more than one occasion, Bubba Hiers requested that Ms. Jackson bring pictures of herself when she was young for him to view.  He told her, ‘You have nice legs’ and that two other employees are ‘ fat girls.'”
  • Schumacher “on multiple occasions, told jokes or ridiculed the President of the United States, using the word ‘nigger.'”

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