It has been making news that Paula Deen admitted to having used the N-word at some point during her life. This shouldn’t come as a great surprise, considering she grew up in the segregated south and 60 years is a long time. Perhaps it is the context of this revelation, a hostile work environment lawsuit, which gives the statement added meaning. Paula and her restaurants are being accused of sexual harassment, racial harassment, and abusive treatment.
The main target of these allegations is Paula’s brother, “Bubba” Heirs, who runs Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House in Savannah. The affidavit includes accusations that Bubba would look at pornography at work, makes lewd jokes about employees as lesbians, and sexually harassed Lisa Jackson, the filer of the suit. Additionally, it claims that racial epithets were used and African Americans were not allowed to go to the front of the restaurant. It should be noted that Ms. Jackson is white.
A restaurant kitchen can be a place of colorful language, to say the least. When does innocent humor cross the line into intolerance? When do you just have a bad boss, and when does it become harassment? Do we measure intolerance by intent or reception? It is a tricky situation where sometimes you really don't know you are saying something wrong. Other times, you're just being a jerk.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Deen Says She Used Slur but Doesn’t Tolerate Hate: http://www.ajc.com/ap/ap/entertainment/deen-says-she-used-slur-but-doesnt-tolerate-hate/nYPyq/
Labor & Employment Law Forum, Paula Deen is in Hot Water Y’all: http://aulaborlawforum.org/2012/03/06/paula-deen-is-in-hot-water-yall-employment-discrimination-suit-filed/
Laugh Spin, In Defense of ‘Offensive’ Jokes: http://www.laughspin.com/2012/08/15/in-defense-of-offensive-jokes-guest-post/
Anti-Defamation League, Internet Hate Speech and the Law: http://archive.adl.org/internet/internet_law3.asp