AccuWeather, a private weather company whose former chief executive is President Trump’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, agreed to pay $290,000 as part of a settlement after a federal oversight agency found the company subjected female employees to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.
Barry 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.
The White House acknowledged receipt of The Washington Post’s inquiry into the settlement but did not return a request for comment before this story published.
The agreement alleges that AccuWeather did “not exercise reasonable care to prevent and correct” the improper treatment and harassment against women there. It includes a letter that was sent to former employees who worked at AccuWeather between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 21, 2017, who were notified they were eligible to receive a payment of at least $7,250 as part of the settlement.
AccuWeather denies the allegations of harassment in the letter. However, as part of the agreement, the company promised to institute a number of changes — including mandatory in-person training for managers in how to identify and prevent unlawful harassment. The company was also asked to hire a third party to “receive and investigate complaints of harassment, intimidation, threats, retaliation and coercion against employees throughout 2018.”
At least four women had received payment by the time the agreement was signed by Joel Myers, and the agreement indicates at least 35 other women had an opportunity to receive money in the settlement. Rhonda Seaton, director of marketing communications at AccuWeather, said in a statement Monday the company cooperated fully with the OFCCP audit before signing the conciliation agreement in June.
“The agreement confirmed our compliance with, and implementation of, continuing equal opportunity programs to strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” she said. “AccuWeather clearly denied the allegations raised after the audit, yet we are using this opportunity to partner with the OFCCP voluntarily to further enhance our strong programs to promote workplace inclusion and diversity.”
The Post has previously reported that former NOAA administrators expressed concern about Myers’s nomination — two of whom said he had conflicts of interests that should disqualify him. His controversial nomination was highlighted by the fact that Myers, a businessman and lawyer, is not a scientist. The Post’s Jason Samenow reported in October 2017 that every past NOAA administrator but one, attorney Richard Frank, who served from 1977 to 1981, has held a science degree — though advocates argue Myers brings private-sector experience that will help advance the organization.
NOAA oversees the National Weather Service, which compiles data used by AccuWeather. Samenow reported that AccuWeather has previously supported measures to limit what the Weather Service can make public, granting private companies a chance to create their own value-added products using the same information.
Myers and his brother Joel gave money to then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in 2005, for example, who introduced legislation aimed at curtailing government competition with private weather services. Myers and his brothers also pressed the government on weather-related programs that could affect AccuWeather’s finances, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The Post.
“Barry Myers defines ‘conflict of interest,' ” Ciaran Clayton, communications director at NOAA in 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.”