No Respite for Deen’s Reputation after Racism Case Dismissed

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    Innocent on a technicality, but the court of public opinion has already judged Deen guilty

    In an interesting development, a judge has denied the claims of racial discrimination brought against Paula Deen by ex-employee Lisa Jackson. That’s right, the charge that brought Paula Deen’s TV empire crashing down in a matter of days has been dismissed altogether. Here’s some more info, from a NY Times article by Alan Blinder:

    A federal judge on Monday dismissed claims of racial discrimination in a lawsuit against Paula Deen, the celebrity chef who was the target of criticism this summer after she acknowledged using a racial epithet.

    Lisa Jackson, who managed one of Ms. Deen’s restaurants in Savannah, Ga., had alleged that widespread discrimination against black workers created a challenging work environment for her.

    But Judge William T. Moore Jr. ruled that Ms. Jackson, who is white, was unprotected by federal law and no more than “an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination.”

    As we all saw in Deen’s case, if your laundry is dirty enough, simply having it aired in public is enough to ruin your reputation. In fact, in many crisis management scenarios we see, the real damage is done long before the case ever hits a court of law. It’s natural to want to bury a past that you know looks bad, but the reality is that you’re best off admitting your mistakes and confronting them head on before the public, or a story-hungry media, digs it up for you and takes you to task.

    For more resources, see the Free Management Library topic: Crisis Management

    [Jonathan Bernstein is president of Bernstein Crisis Management, Inc., an international crisis management consultancy, author of Manager’s Guide to Crisis Management and Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training. Erik Bernstein is Social Media Manager for the firm, and also editor of its newsletter, Crisis Manager]