Al Roker, Sued, DEI Initiative, Black Cartoon

Al Roker Sued For Allegedly Not Following DEI Initiative On Black Cartoon

Al Roker Entertainment accused of using DEI initiative as a "box to be checked" rather than a requirement.

Famed weather anchor Al Roker is being sued by an executive producer who’s accusing him of using DEI as a “box to be checked” and not a requirement.

Bill Schultz, a former executive producer on the animated kids’ TV series “Weather Hunters” filed the lawsuit in New York federal court on Tuesday, April 16, accusing Roker and his production company of violating NY’s human rights law against racial discrimination and breach of contract and negligence, via The Hollywood Reporter. The veteran producer, whose credits include “The Simpsons,” “King of The Hill,” and “Garfield” claims he was fired after calling out Al Roker Entertainment’s alleged failure to properly adhere to a diversity initiative to bring on more diverse writers.

The DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiative, mandated by the show’s network PBS, would cover 70 percent of production costs under the agreement that “Weather Hunters” would adhere to a DEI plan. However, Schultz claims Al Roker Entertainment “callously disregarded” the program by attempting to have Black writers only touch up scripts written by white writers to give the appearance of a diverse writers room.

“I put nine years of my career into Weather Hunters, a project I strongly believe in, with the goal of making a wonderfully crafted show for children to enjoy and learn from,” Schultz said in a statement.

“I also believed, and still believe, that the project benefited by creating opportunities for the ‘new voices’ crucial in storytelling and that the Weather Hunters production needed to live up to the ideals it was supposed to represent.”

PBS emphasized the importance of DEI efforts for “Weather Hunters” since the show is targeted at Black families. With Roker having full ownership of the show, Schultz argues that the production company “treated the DEI Policy as discretionary and an obstacle to be circumvented.” The lawsuit cites an August 2023 meeting where the show’s story editor said that he “could not meet the production schedule if BIPOC writers were used to write the stories” and that “he would need to hire experienced non-BIPOC writers.”

“Instead of giving the chances to BIPOC writers as had been the plan, the story editor, repeating a strategy previously advocated and backed by Al Roker Entertainment management in writing, wanted to have ‘non-BIPOC’ writers write the stories, and then bring on a ‘BIPOC’ writer and after the stories/episodes [were] shaped, they could be ‘hand[ed] off to BIPOC writers,’” the lawsuit states.

It was after the meeting when Schultz was served a notice telling him he was in breach of contract for issues related to staffing. Shortly thereafter, a Black producer was reprimanded for complaining and Schultz was eventually terminated. He calls out Al Roker Entertainment for failing to see DEI as a requirement but rather a “box to be checked in the most expedient manner possible” and an “impediment to business as usual.”

Roker has yet to respond to the lawsuit.

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