The premise that the allegations against Paula Deen regard private behavior and occasional usage of racial slurs under some duress has been accepted by pundits to argue whether or not the Food Network should keep her. This premise is false. Deen is being sued for promoting and participating in creating a hostile workplace. These incidents at Paula Deen’s restaurants and banquet halls did not occur decades ago. We’re talking 2005 to 2010! More former employees are being enabled by Lisa Jackson’s lawsuit v. Deen et al.:
Now another former employee, Renee Mincey McDonald, has come forward and claimed to the National Enquirer that she regularly heard Deen use the N-word during the years 1998-2003 when she worked as a waitress at Deen’s ‘Lady & Sons’ restaurant in Savannah, Ga.
According to the magazine’s report, McDonald said black staff members were ‘treated like animals,’ while Deen would also ‘refer to homosexuals as f******.’
‘N***** was Paul’s favorite word – she used it all the time! I’ve heard Paula specifically say she “did not want any n***** working in front of the house as hostesses, waiters or bussers,”’ McDonald told the National Enquirer.
‘She only wanted them working in the back of the restaurant where the patrons couldn’t see them.’
Not just the “n-word”
The complaints allege a workplace environment, fraught with sexual harassment, physical abuse to the level of battery, intimidation and racism. I wish I would stop seeing only black pundits address this as if she just recounted a Chris Rock joke to an employee one time at a happy hour and it’s insensitive language. If you think it’s just a racist comment or two, read the complaint LISA T. JACKSON v. Paula Deen et al. over at ATLaw, and Paula Deen’s deposition in this case. She ran an awful workplace for everyone!
There are many uninformed apologists, like Bill Maher, who switches to Tea Bagger vernacular and says it’s the “Liberal PC Police” who are coming after Deen for saying the “n-word” and we should worry about other racists like Sarah Palin, or Donald Trump. I’m not familiar with the officers in that precinct. Well, today I’ve been self-deputized into the “Liberal Do Some Actual F*cking Research Police” Department. This Paula Deen fiasco is one of those cases where what’s being widely reported doesn’t scratch the surface. Here are some quick notes on the suit from ATLaw Blog, (bold is from me):
The lawyer for celebrity restaurateur Paula Deen and her business enterprise said Monday afternoon that charges in an ex-employee’s suit—including claims that Deen’s brother subjected the plaintiff and others to misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism—are false.[…]
For instance, Jackson claims a top company accountant revoked her bonus because she divorced and that he also made derogatory comments about females.
The accountant , who was in control of compensation for the corporate enterprise, stated in Ms. Jackson’s presence, that “‘women are stupid because they think they can work and have babies and get everything done,’” Jackson’s complaint states.[…]
The complaint also details scenarios involving Deen and Hiers, such as Jackson’s appointment to replace another general manager who “was allegedly sleeping with servers, a matter disregarded by Bubba Hiers.”
“In a meeting with that general manager and Ms. Jackson, Paula Deen terminated that general manager and stated to Bubba Hiers, ‘if you think I have worked this hard to lose everything because of a piece of p[***]y, you better think again.’ Paula Deen continued, ‘and now I am going to do something I have never done. I am going to put a woman in a man’s job,’” the suit states.
Jackson alleges that her ability to make the restaurant turn a profit in six months was repeatedly derided by male managers. The plaintiff also claims she was called “my little Jew girl” by Hiers.
Jackson also alleges in her suit that Hiers kissed her and spit on her, was physically and verbally abusive to the staff, viewed pornography in his office and on kitchen computers in view of employees and took cash from the restaurant’s receipts—as much as $26,000 per month.
A hostile workplace environment lawsuit is Not “Extortion” or a “Shakedown”
Workplace harassment complaints are not “extortion” as Paula Deen’s son will soon find out and they aren’t “shakedowns” like this fuckery in the HuffPo happily argued on Deen’s behalf. Instead of taking a celebrity’s word for it, realize that being able to make a lot of money doesn’t make a person more right. Jackson, while working for Deen, complained to Deen about the awful environment, helped write an employee handbook for the Deen family of companies. She tried to get Deen to resolve these issues. Instead, Lisa Jackson was often made responsible for cleaning up .
Deen would have been smart to settle out of court. It would have cost her way less in cash to Jackson and she would still have her food empire in place. It’s obvious her brother was a train wreck, and her workplace was a harassment suit waiting to happen. Deen enabled Hier at every turn as opposed to removing him from the employees he terrorized by firing him. Worse yet, it seems she doesn’t understand what entails harassment. A hint: you don’t have to be the target of harassment to be a victim of harassment. Jackson testified she was so physically and emotionally beaten down by her workplace that her doctor recommended hospitalization. No way Deen and Hier (as a business) shouldn’t have just paid her ASAP.
If I hear Paula Deen apologizing to “whomever she may have hurt” for saying the “n-word”, which is “nigger”, one more time I’m gonna explode…or just sit here and be angry. Probably the latter. Go look at Tim Hardaway, who after falling from grace after homophobic comments, actually educated himself and actually learned about his bigotry and grew past it to be one of the first NBA greats to support Jason Collins on coming out. That’s real penance and it didn’t take Jesse Jackson to do it. Compare that to Paula Deen’s “I is what I is.” She doesn’t want to change.
I don’t care about her holding a presser or another apology with (Jesse) Jackson in tow. Her remaining sponsors, and future business partners do. There are people who worked for Deen’s companies that deserve apologies. Otherwise, this is awful, personal stuff that isn’t for us to decide when she should be forgiven.
Deen will probably be fine. Lighter in the pockets, but fine.
Her book is a pre-release best-seller on Amazon passing the actually good Game Of Thrones. Thing is, like Imus, Limbaugh, Mel Gibson, Michael Richards and other celebrities who have been exposed themselves to be capable of being virulently bigoted: she’ll be ok in the end. They are distraught when they are caught because they believe they’ve done nothing wrong and are being unfairly persecuted because someone who they have demonstrably discriminated against has it “out” for them. Not because they can’t find a way to recover. In the face of all these accusations, remember Deen’s final declaration to Matt Lauer in her non-apology interview: “I is what I is and I’m not changing”.
“Blogger, please! Why do you even care?”
What I really hope is Paula Deen and her sons really seek to reform the businesses they continue to run and make them EEO compliant workplaces. I don’t expect someone that grew up in the segregated south and in a household engaged in bigotry to be free of that world view. But I do expect the leader of a multi-million dollar business to understand that her workplace must be held to a higher standard. I also expect that businessperson to understand that changing their company may require some real change within themselves before they can seek some forgiveness. Fact of the matter is, blacks, women, gays, jews, latinos and people that care about them still work for Deen and her family’s establishments. They still need to make rent and pay bills. They deserve to be able to make a living with dignity and without being subjected to abuse and harassment. It is a civil rights issue.
If Deen can’t make that change, then she deserves to lose every penny twice over.