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Defining Racial Discrimination

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

(File photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - If your boss uses offensive racial slurs against your coworkers who are a different race than you, can you sue because you were offended? You may be surprised.

The now infamous deposition in which Paula Deen admitted using racial slurs in the past laid low the empire she built. But the most perplexing part of the deposition that was taken during a claim brought against her company for a gender and race discrimination case wasn’t what she said but why she answered in the first place.

Here’s the thing: the person who brought the claim WAS WHITE. And while one may well be offended upon hearing a racial slur made against another person, under the law, you can’t sue for race discrimination unless you personally are the one facing discrimination. So, while the person who brought a lawsuit against Paula Deen’s company may well have bristled upon hearing racial slurs, she has no legal right to sue because of the way OTHERS were treated.

A white person can sue for race discrimination if she faced discrimination on the basis of her own race, she can’t sue for race discrimination if the alleged discrimination was not on the basis of her own race. So Paula Deen’s lawyer should have instructed her not to answer questions about race in the deposition until he could get the race discrimination claims dismissed on the ground that the plaintiff couldn’t make a claim on that ground.

As it turns out, even if the plaintiff loses the claim, it’s clearly Deen who has lost the most.

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