A federal investigation found “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment of female employees at AccuWeather while the company was run by a man nominated by President Donald Trump to head a federal agency.
Multiple complaints from sexually harassed women were ignored, and the employees feared retaliation when they reported misconduct to their bosses, according to the Labor Department report. Many of the women reported resigning under pressure. Harassment included unwanted groping and kissing, the investigation found.
A redacted copy of the January report was obtained by the Associated Press following Trump’s controversial nomination of former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Myers was CEO during the “pervasive” harassment but he stepped down early this year and divested himself of ownership in preparation for taking over NOAA.
AccuWeather, which is still owned by Myers’ family members, sells information that is gleaned in part from data paid for by taxpayers and produced by the National Weather Service, which is overseen by NOAA. Critics have lashed Myers’ nomination as an outrageous breach of ethics that would put the man profiting from NOAA data in charge of that agency.
A group of government watchdog organizations have called on senators to vote against Myers’ nomination or demand exact specific concessions from him to protect against obvious conflicts of interest.
“AccuWeather, which is still owned and operated by members of Mr. Myers’ family, profits in part off of data that is produced by the offices Mr. Myers would oversee. Unless he recuses from particular matters that will have a direct and predicable effect on the company, the agency’s decision-making could be compromised,” said a letter sent earlier this month to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Myers’ nomination was fast-tracked in a Senate committee vote early this month, according to The Washington Post. It must still be voted on by the full Senate.
“Barry Myers defines ‘conflict of interest,’” Ciaran Clayton, NOAA communications director during the Obama administration, told the Post in 2017. “He actively lobbied to privatize the National Weather Service, which works day in and day out to protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, to benefit his own company’s bottom line.”
AccuWeather agreed last year to pay $290,000 as part of a settlement of the Labor Department’s findings, even though officials still insist the company did nothing wrong, AP reported.