Activist: Paula Deen allegations just the tip of the iceberg



ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned about some new explosive allegations from an Atlanta civil rights activist against embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen.

Marcus Coleman told Channel 2's Tony Thomas workers in Deen's restaurants are preparing another lawsuit claiming race and equality issues.

This comes as more companies cut ties with the Georgia-based cook.

Atlanta-based Home Depot, which sold Deen's cookware online, pulled the merchandise off its website Thursday.

Coleman said the initial allegations against Deen are just the tip of the iceberg.

"It's sad to see people fearful when they are truly being treated unfairly," Coleman said.

Coleman said he's been meeting with as many as 20 current and former Paula Deen employees for 15 months.

"(It's) a rainbow of employees, many of them Caucasian," he said.

Coleman said they kept silent all this time waiting for a former manager's lawsuit to begin. That lawsuit is what's prompted the recent firestorm.

The workers are still reportedly too scared to talk on camera but allowed Coleman to speak on their behalf. He said they complain of being passed over for promotions, pay inequities and other racial issues.

"We're talking about qualified workers with tenure that have been skipped over management positions because of their race," Coleman said.

Paula Deen has repeatedly apologized for using racist words and her sons back her up.

"I beg for your forgiveness," Deen said in a YouTube apology. "This environment of race that is being talked about couldn't be further from the truth.

"It began as extortion and has become character assassination," her son Jamie Deen said.

Thomas tried to reach out to Deen's representatives regarding these latest allegations, but has not received a response.

Meanwhile, Coleman said there's more to come.

"They don't mind fighting this in court," Coleman said.

Thomas asked for Coleman to allow him to talk to the workers directly either in person or by phone, but he said they are simply too scared to talk to anyone without protection from a court case.

Channel 2 Action News

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