In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Social commentary on July 4, 2013 at 1:00 am

The media has focused exclusively on Paula Deen’s use of the so-called “N-word”.  In doing so, it has ignored more important aspects of the lawsuit filed against her.

The plaintiff in the case is Lisa Jackson, former General Manager of Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House Restaurant in Savannah, Georgia.

Lisa Jackson

At the center of the complaint filed in the case is Earl “Bubba” Hiers, the brother of Paula Deen.

Among the allegations listed in the complaint:

  • Hiers “frequently visits strip clubs and would bring to the workplace numerous stories…regarding the highlights of his visits.”
  • Hiers “commented to…Jackson regarding a female employee who was married to a significantly younger man, ‘Can you imagine that man going to bed with her?'”
  • “The male General Manager of the Lady & Sons Restaurant is paid substantially more” than Jackson was as General Manager at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House–even though both are run by the Paula Dean Family of Companies.
  • In addition, “there are male managers below the General Manager level at Lady & Sons Restaurant that are compensated more than…Jackson and who received compensation in addition to salary, including bonuses and retirement not allowed to…Jackson.”
  • On July 20, 2010, Jackson told Hiers that a white restaurant employee had made “a sexually harassing comment” to a black kitchen staffer.  “Seething with anger and red in the face….Hiers repeatedly screamed at [the witness] asking what he saw….Unsatisfied with [the witness’s] response…Hiers physically and violently shook him and stated, ‘Fuck your civil rights.  You work for me and my sister Paula Deen,’ saying futher: ‘You’re not going to get me sued over some little bitch.’  Mr. Hiers proceeded to physically and violently shake [the employee].”
  • “The staff of Uncle Bubba’s restaurant was in a constant state of fear awaiting Bubba Hiers’ arrival at the restaurant and any required interaction with him.”
  • “The stress of repeatedly taking on the role of anticipating…Hiers’ violence, moderating it to the extent possible, and playing the go-between role with her staff caused…Jackson enormous stress.”
  • This “caused chest pains and…panic attacks that would often begin when…Hiers’ truck pulled into the parking lot or upon appearance of the white cup–the styrofoam cup poured almost full with whiskey at approximately 10 a.m., whereupon…Hiers began his day of drinking and abusive behavior.  When the truck pulled up or the white cup appeared, staff would scatter, leaving…Jackson to manage…Hiers.”
  • “Jackson’s pleas for relief from the harassment to senior management also took the form of requests…for a transfer anywhere in the company–even if it required a cut in pay.  But she was told…that Paula Deen would never let her leave Uncle Bubba’s restaurant.”
  • When Jackson directly asked Deen for a transfer, Deen “told…Jackson she could never leave Uncle Bubba’s restaurant.”
  • “Corporate counsel James P. Gerard would frequently call…Jackson at home in the evenings and on the weekend to discuss and sympathize with the discriminatory conditions and abusive treatment she confronted.”
  • “For over five years, Ms. Jackson made numerous and frequent complaints of racial and sexual harassment and abusive treatment to the highest levels of corporate management and ownership, including:
  • “Defendants Paula Deen and Bubba Hiers; Paula Deen Enterprises Chief Operation Officer and Director of Operations Theresa Fueger; the Certified Public Accountant…Karl Schumacher; and to the attorney for defendants, James P. Gerard.”
  • “The conduct was universally known and tolerated within the ownership and management levels of the corporate enterprise, and by corporate counsel and no remedy was offered.”

Deen hasn’t helped herself with her response to the firestorm of criticism that has descended upon her.

On June 20, the full, unedited transcript of Deen’s deposition was leaked–proving that she did, in fact, admit to using the dreaded “N-word.”

The media chose to focus on this–and completely ignored the multiple instances of sexual/racial harassment, drunkenness and violence.

On June 22, Deen canceled a scheduled appearance on the Today show to discuss the reports. She released a video apology that went viral. This was quickly taken down and replaced with a second version.

Paula Deen apology video

“Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me,” Deen told her viewers. “But it’s what in the heart. What’s in the heart.  And my family and I try to live by that.”

Deen then posted a third video, directly apologizing to Today host Matt Lauer for cancelling her scheduled June 22 interview with him.

On June 26, Deen finally appeared on Today, tearfully offering a response that was half-apology, half-defiance:

“If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wished they could take back. If you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me. Please. I want to meet you. I is what I is and I’m not changing.”

But none of these appearances have reclaimed one lost sponsor–nor caused the media to back off.

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