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Paula Deen's Firing: 5 Lessons for Businesses

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

Celebrity chef Paula Deen has been fired by Food Network, which is declining to renew her contract when it expires at the end of this month. The news, of course, stems from leaked court documents that revealed Deen's use of derogatory slurs, including the N-word, among a whole slew of other offensive behavior and language.

Deen's firing comes almost two years after the 66-year-old celebrity chef's other "scandal," wherein she revealed her Type II diabetes -- but only because she was a paid spokeswoman for an insulin company.

Aside from her penchant for drowning everything in butter and scandal, what can business owners take away from Deen's public ordeals? Here are five potential lessons to be learned:

  1. Prepare for your depositions. If you're involved in a lawsuit, depositions are unavoidable. Obviously you should never leave out relevant information or lie, but there is stiill a certain way to present your story through the questions you are asked. Make sure your attorney prepares you ahead of time with what's to be expected.
  2. Don't be inconsistent with your brand. Being consistent with your product is key; there is nothing more off-putting than knowing a business owner does not abide by her own mission statement. While Deen obviously did not plan to get diabetes (though others may disagree with that), she continued to cook up sugary, unhealthy meals and only began promoting a healthier image when she became a paid spokesperson. This comes off as rather disingenuous, and is less likely to retain customers.
  3. Treat your workers with respect. The lawsuit for which Deen was deposed was filed by a former employee who is alleging discrimination. Treating your workers with professionalism and respect is always the general rule of thumb for business owners to go by. This strictly forbides any kind of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
  4. Don't get too personal. Remember that even if you are friendly with your employees, you must still act in a professional capacity. That means certain comments, intentional or not, may yield harmful results. You should always err on the side of caution, especially if the comments you're about to make are related to one's gender, age, sexual orientation, or race.
  5. Be healthy and eat right! Eating healthy has both short-term and long-term benefits that of course affect your quality of life in and out of the workplace. While diabetes can sometimes be genetic, it can easily be controlled and prevented with a healthy eating regime. This may be challenging for busy entrepreneurs, but keeping a close eye on your diet can pay off in the long run, in more ways than one.

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