In Bureaucracy, Business, Law, Social commentary on July 5, 2013 at 12:07 am

Deserted by most of her major sponsors and branded as a racist by the media, Paula Deen believes she has found the magic solution to her problems:  Hollingsworth v. Perry.

That’s the Supreme Court case which effectively legalized gay marriage in California.

On July 1, Deen’s lawyers cited Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision in a filing submitted to the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Georgia.  To quote Roberts:

“In other words, for a federal court to have authority under the Constitution to settle a dispute, the party before it must seek a remedy for a personal and tangible harm.”

On June 26, the Supreme Court rejected former California State Senator Dennis Hollingsworth’s defense of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage.  The reason: The Justices believed that, as a heterosexual, he could not be tangibly harmed by same-sex marriage.

Applying this to the Deen lawsuit: Lisa Jackson can’t sue Deen and her brother, Earl “Bubba” Hiers for racial discrimination because she herself is white–and thus could not have been harmed by racial discrimination, even if this had occurred.

While these legal gymnastics may offer Deen some momentary solace, they come too late to prevent the loss of millions of dollars she has suffered in the mass desertion of her sponsors.

Mega-corporations like the Food Network, Wal-Mart and Smithfield Foods aren’t going to renew their ties to Deen anytime soon–if ever.  And, at this point, “if ever” looks more like “never.”

The scandal ensuing from her admitting to use of the “N-word” in her deposition has already cost her far more than any court judgment could.

Moreover, she desperately needs to put this disaster behind her–and as quickly as possible.

Her appearances on TV and the Internet have been filled with self-pitying tears and pleas for forgiveness.  But  they have most likely reminded viewers of the infamous “I Have Sinned” extravaganza put on by televangelist Jimmy Swaggart in 1988.

Paula Deen apology

Outed with a prostitute, Swaggart gave an alternately fiery and tearful speech to his family, TV congregation and God: “I have sinned against You, my Lord, and I would ask that Your Precious Blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God’s forgetfulness, not to be remembered against me anymore.”

Jimmy Swaggart’s confession

Yes, the U.S. District Court might rule in Deen’s favor that, as a white, Jackson could not have been harmed by racial discrimination.

But Jackson’s lawyers can certainly argue that she was harmed by receiving unequal pay and being exposed to a climate of sexual harassment, obscenity, assault, battery and humiliating behavior.

The longer this lawsuit drags on, the more the public wll be exposed to the truth about Deen’s treatment of her employees.  And the less likely they–and, more importantly, her former sponsors–will be to forgive her.

So no matter how clever she thinks her lawyers are, her best bet would be:

  • Settle the lawsuit–quickly;
  • Drop out of the limelight; and
  • Work quietly to regain the trust of the public and as many of her former sponsors as possible.

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, violence, sexual harassment and theft.

Deen has claimed she knows that the days of Southern racism are past.  But according to the complaint filed against her by her former General Manager, that past remains very much alive at Deen’s restaurants:

  • 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 female employees to view pornography with him.
  • Allowing Hiers to often violently shake employees.
  • Allowing Hiers to 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 Deen is far less victim than victimizer–allowing her brother to subject both his black and female employees to obscene, alcoholic, violent and humiliating behavior.

In her deposition, Deen admitted to being warned by MackWorks, a business consulting firm, that sexual/racial discrimination was rife at her brother’s restaurant.

And how did she respond?

“I didn’t read the report,” admitted Deen. “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.”

The wonder is not that the chickens have finally come home to roost for Paula Deen.  The wonder is that it took so long for them to do so.

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