Interview on CNN transcript
The racial and sex discrimination lawsuit filed against Deen and her brother may not be their only headache (INAUDIBLE). Joining me now is attorney Robert Patillo from the Rainbow Push Coalition. Welcome. ROBERT PATILLO, ATTORNEY, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: Thank you so much.
COSTELLO: So, Robert, you say other people have been approaching you with other allegations against Deen. Tell me about them.
PATILLO: Absolutely. We had the opportunity to go down to Savannah this weekend and speak with many current or former employees of Ms. Deen, and many employees had similar stories of sexual harassment or racial discrimination. A general hostile work environment.
What we did was contact employees. We asked them to give us their stories, give us the things that happened to us, and we found that there were so many employees that were just afraid to come out, afraid to speak.
In Savannah, Paula Deen is one of the most powerful figures in the city. And many of them who worked as cooks, who have minimum wage jobs or who are employees of her, feel that if they come out and speak, that they will be blacklisted, that they will lose their job with her but also not be able to find jobs in Savannah or anywhere else in the region.
COSTELLO: So are you urging them to file a lawsuit against Deen and her brother?
PATILLO: Not exactly - not particularly file a lawsuit but have their stories come out. If they had been the victims of discrimination, they should absolutely seek the legal recourse they need. But things in their employment will not improve until they come out and let these things be known.
When you have such an imbalance of power, you have a millionaire TV chef and you're a cook or you're a waitress or you cleaned the floors, it's very difficult for you to stand up. But the reason we launched this investigation, the reason we've gone in and looked into these things and talked to employees, is just to make sure they know that they have a support system. They're not the only ones experiencing this.
COSTELLO: Paula Deen has many, many supporters. And they say she was born 60 years ago when America's south had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants, and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today. Paula Deen has also apologized twice for her insensitivities. Does she deserve all of this?
She lost her show on Food Network. She may lose her gig on QVC. Her lines pulled from K-Mart and Target, we just don't know. Does she deserve all of this for what she says, "I'm sorry, it was a mistake. I didn't know I was being insensitive?"
PATILLO: Well, the issue is the use of the n-word or slurs is not the biggest problem here. The manifestation of those racial slurs, those lines and employment policy that affects the lives of so many of her employees. From what we understand from the people that we talked to, there's a de facto glass ceiling in place, you know, from restaurants where African-Americans can come in and they can work on the line and they can work as cooks or janitors, but there's no opportunity for advancement or pay raises.
Also, what we've heard and what we understand is that many of the employees did not receive a pay raise until this current lawsuit by Lisa Jackson was filed and that there was never any blacks in management, there was just a general hostile work environment because of the insular-run business.
COSTELLO: We'll keep in touch. Robert Patillo, thank you so much for coming in. We appreciate it.
PATILLO: Thank you.