After a federal investigation into State College-based AccuWeather, the company’s former CEO — who is also President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is defending the company’s actions.
In a letter to the editor submitted to both the Centre Daily Times and The Washington Post, Barry Myers said he and his family’s company were “unjustly mischaracterized” in recent news articles, including an April 15 Associated Press article published in the CDT.
The articles were based on a U.S. Department of Labor report that found a “severe and pervasive” culture of sexual harassment at the company. The report — obtained independently by the CDT and first reported by The Post — also described “widespread” sexual harassment.
AccuWeather agreed in June to pay $290,000 as part of a conciliation agreement, but has denied allegations it discriminated against female employees by subjecting them to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
“Many organizations have employee issues in the work environment,” Myers wrote in the letter. “The leadership test is doing the right thing when issues arise. In this case, the company specifically and unequivocally denied the allegations.”
Myers declined an interview with the CDT to answer additional questions about the investigation and report.
The company decided it was “much more productive and effective” to enhance the company’s anti-harassment, anti-discrimination policies instead of spending time and money on “protracted” legal negotiations, according to marketing communications director Rhonda Seaton.
In his letter, Myers also addressed the company’s decision not to fight the claims.
“Being sensitive to the concerns of women in the workforce, the company selected a creative course to solve these issues with the least disruption and stress for all concerned,” Myers wrote.
As part of its agreement with the Department of Labor, AccuWeather was required to make changes to the workplace environment, company policies and procedures in training. The company has complied with the terms in the agreement, a Department of Labor spokesperson said Tuesday.
“The actions taken by the company showed sensitivity and appropriateness,” Myers wrote.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs investigation, which began in March 2017, included interviews and allegations from more than two dozen former or current employees, ranging from administrative support positions to senior management.
Several senior male managers, including at least one executive, engaged in sexual relationships with subordinate employees, according to the report. The involved women received job-related perks and career opportunities that were not offered to others, the report said.
According to the report, the investigation also found multiple sexual harassment claims — including several against a “high-profile male employee” in the digital media and content operations department — were ignored and the company “was aware of the sexual harassment, but took no action.”
Multiple witnesses claimed the employee touched, hugged and kissed female employees on the mouth without their consent, according to the report. Citing company policy, Seaton declined to discuss the details of the employee’s current standing.
“AccuWeather cooperated fully with the OFCCP on a workplace audit,” Seaton said. “The agreement confirmed our compliance with, and implementation of, continuing and enhanced equal opportunity programs to strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
Myers was the company’s CEO from 2007 until January, when he resigned and announced he would divest himself of company ownership in accordance with an ethics pledge to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, according to the company. His brother, Joel Myers, is the founder of AccuWeather and now serves as its CEO.
Barry Myers’ nomination to head NOAA — which oversees the National Weather Service — advanced out of a Senate committee April 3 for the third time, but has not been scheduled for a full Senate vote.
“If confirmed as the head of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I will be someone who will always do the right thing,” he wrote in his letter.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, through a spokesperson, said he has “serious concerns” about Myers’ nomination and continues to review his background. Casey, D-Pa., did not announce whether he would vote for or against Myers, but said his concerns would guide his decision.
“The Department of Labor agreement is a troubling piece of information that must be reviewed closely,” spokesman Andres Anzola said. “The allegations of sexual harassment are deeply concerning.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., did not respond to multiple requests for comment.