NOAA Nominee Myers Misleads Congress on Sexual Harassment Investigation
Washington, DC — Barry Lee Myers, former CEO of AccuWeather and nominee for Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), failed to disclose a federal investigation into a culture of rampant sexual harassment and retaliation at AccuWeather to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, according to a letter to Senate leadership sent today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
PEER’s letter to Senate leadership and the Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation requests that Myers’ nomination be held until he can explain why he did not disclose this investigation to Congress as required, and if he cannot explain this failure, that the matter be referred to the Department of Justice for investigation.
“Excluding this investigation from the record was a plain attempt to deceive Congress and the American people,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell. “It’s another dark cloud over Myers’ nomination.”
As part of his nomination, Myers submitted a sworn statement to Congress outlining background information, including a statement that AccuWeather’s only involvement in any administrative proceeding, criminal case, or civil case was “routine civil and administrative actions such as contract disputes and employee claims for unemployment compensation, workers compensation, and other personnel matters.” That statement, sworn October 24, 2017, was made seven months after the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs began investigating AccuWeather for creating a work environment so hostile that it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. AccuWeather settled the administrative proceeding in June 2018.
Myers’ refusal to acknowledge sexual harassment echoes AccuWeather’s approach to sexual harassment while he was CEO: the investigation found that even though AccuWeather was manifestly aware of pervasive sexual harassment, it took no action to correct it. Department of Labor investigators found a lawless workplace where open acknowledgment of sexual harassment was career suicide:
- AccuWeather had “widespread sexual harassment” affecting over 24 women in many departments at every level of seniority.
- Multiple employees testified that they had directly reported harassment to AccuWeather’s Vice President of Human Resources, who later told investigators that she had never received a complaint about harassment and the company was not aware of any harassment whatsoever.
- AccuWeather’s Ombudsman Committee, the main resource for employees filing harassment complaints, had been disbanded over two years before the investigation began.
- A senior male employee engaged in extreme unwelcome conduct, including hugging and kissing female employees on the mouth, which was reported by multiple women. AccuWeather’s VPHR expressed shock that anybody would accuse him of sexual harassment and claimed no such reports were made.
- Senior managers and one executive engaged in sexual relationships with female subordinates in exchange for career advancement. A woman was fired after her complaints about these relationships were overheard by the VPHR.
- Multiple employees and former employees reported being retaliated against or fired for complaining about male supervisors.
The Department of Labor holds the power to debar federal contractors like AccuWeather from taking federal contracts if their violations of law are severe enough. The possibility of losing such a revenue stream could hold significant implications for the valuation of AccuWeather stock, of which Myers and his family hold over 90 percent.
“These are shocking revelations,” said Tim Whitehouse, Executive Director of PEER. “Congress and the American people deserve an explanation as to why this information was not disclosed by Meyers.”