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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, April 14, 2019 1:00 am

Trump nominee faces scrutiny over AccuWeather stint

Michael Brice-Saddler | Washington Post

A federal workplace investigation found rampant sexual harassment and retaliation at AccuWeather, a federal contractor, including groping, touching and kissing of subordinates without consent. AccuWeather's chief executive at the time of the allegations and investigation, Barry Myers, was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The detailed results of the investigation, not previously reported, were compiled last year by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and obtained by the Washington Post. It determined that AccuWeather, under Myers, fostered a culture ripe for sexual harassment, turned a blind eye to egregious allegations and retaliated against those who complained.

According to the report, the investigation was prompted by a complaint filed Sept. 6, 2016, alleging a “hostile work environment and termination based on sexual orientation and sex,” followed by myriad other complaints from AccuWeather employees.

“Over two dozen witnesses spanning many different departments and in positions ranging from administrative support to senior management described unlawful sexual harassment that occurred at the company,” the detailed report says. “This sexual harassment was so severe and pervasive, that some female employees resigned.”

The investigation, which began in March 2017, also found that AccuWeather was “aware” of the sexual harassment but took no action to correct it, despite the company's claims that it was not privy to any harassing activity.

Myers, tapped by Trump in 2017 to lead NOAA, became Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather's chief executive in 2007 and stepped down Jan. 1, agreeing to divest himself of any 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 founder and president of AccuWeather.

A Senate committee fast-tracked Myers's nomination on April 3, when they voted without debate to advance him to the full Senate floor for a vote. The vote broke along party lines, 14-12, with Republicans in favor of Myers.

It was the third time his nomination has advanced out of committee, yet not been scheduled for a floor vote.

A spokesman for the White House declined to comment on this report. Barry Myers did not return an email requesting comment.

The report lists numerous, alarming examples of the alleged harassing behavior.

Multiple witnesses claimed a “high-profile male employee” in the Digital Media Content and Operations department hugged, touched and kissed female employees on the mouth without their consent. The vice president of human resources at AccuWeather the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs expressed shock at the allegations and claimed to have no knowledge, despite several witnesses telling investigators they reported the man's conduct to the vice president of human relations.

Investigators found the vice president of human resources' claims of “no knowledge” incredible, citing the volume of contradictory witness statements and documentary evidence. When one of these claims into the male employee was investigated by human resources, no action was taken, according to the report.