Celebrity chef Paula Deen won a partial victory on Monday when a U.S. judge dismissed the racial discrimination portion of a lawsuit that has already cost the Southern culinary star a big chunk of her multimillion-dollar enterprise.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. district court in Savannah, Georgia, by Lisa Jackson, who worked for five years at a restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers.
Jackson claimed she was the victim of sexual harassment and alleged there was a pattern of racial discrimination against African-American employees at the restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House.
U.S. District Judge William Moore ruled on Monday that Jackson had no grounds to sue on the basis of racial discrimination because she is white. There were no allegations that any racially offensive remarks were directed at her or intended to harass her, the judge ruled.
He said he would decide later whether the sexual harassment part of the lawsuit could go forward.
Deen, 66, admitted in a deposition in the case that she had used the "N-word," an admission that prompted Scripps Networks Interactive Inc to drop her cooking show from its cable television channel, the Food Network.
Other companies rushed to cut their ties with Deen, dropping her as a celebrity endorser and announcing they would no longer carry the cookbooks, housewares and other products that helped Deen build a multi-million dollar enterprise.
The case in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia is Lisa Jackson vs. Paula Deen, Paula Deen Enterprises et al., 12-cv-139.
(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Richard Chang)