Celebs

Judge in Paula Deen suit throws out racial discrimination claims

Aug. 12, 2013 at 3:58 PM ET

Video: Paula Deen’s empire is in tatters over a lawsuit claiming sexual harassment and racial discrimination, but a federal judge has now thrown out the racial bias allegations against her, scoring Deen her first legal victory. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

A federal judge in Georgia has thrown out race discrimination claims by a former Savannah restaurant manager whose lawsuit against Paula Deen ended up causing the celebrity cook to lose a big slice of her culinary empire.

Lisa Jackson sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, last year, saying she was subjected to sexual harassment and racist attitudes during the five years she worked at their restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. But U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled Monday that Jackson, who is white, has no standing to sue them for race discrimination.

In his ruling, judge Moore said that though others may have allegedly faced discrimination, Jackson can't sue since she was not one of the victims. 

"While Plaintiff may have faced significant challenges in managing a workplace allegedly permeated with racial discrimination, her difficulties do not fall within the zone of interests sought to be protected by Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] and cannot support a claim for racial discrimination under that stature," he said, according to the court order obtained by NBC News.

"We are pleased with the court's ruling today that Lisa Jackson's claims of race discrimination have been dismissed," Deen's spokeperson Elana Weiss Rose told TODAY. "As Ms. Deen has stated before , she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone."

The ruling leaves intact Jackson's sexual harassment claims.

The Food Network and other business partners dropped Deen after she acknowledged using racial slurs in the past during questioning by Jackson's lawyers.

Video: Discussing the controversial Paula Deen case, advertising executive Donny Deutsch tells TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that although a judge ruled that the celebrity cook could not be sued on racial discrimination charges, corporations “still know the truth,” which will impair her from restoring her business empire.


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