Al Roker’s company ‘illegally targeted’ exec producer, failed to properly follow DEI program: suit

Al Roker’s company ‘illegally targeted’ exec producer, failed to properly follow DEI program: suit

Al Roker and his company were accused in a lawsuit filed Tuesday of failing to follow a diversity, equity and inclusion mandate.

Former executive producer Bill Schultz is suing the “Today” show anchor and Al Roker Entertainment, claiming he was “wrongfully and illegally targeted” for termination in 2023 after calling out the company’s failure to properly follow a diversity initiative, according to a court document The Hollywood Reporter published.

The lawsuit alleged that the company “callously disregarded” a PBS DEI program that mandated Schultz’ animated series “Weather Hunters” include Black writers. Schultz accused Al Roker Entertainment of trying to undermine and avoid the mandate by having Black writers only touch up scripts that White writers wrote rather than hire Black staff 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 read.

Al Roker, in a suit and glasses, speaking to the media at the 2024 Team USA Media Summit in New York City
Al Roker’s entertainment company is being accused of refusing to hire black writers. Getty Images for the USOPC

After a Black producer was reprimanded for opposing this idea, Schultz spoke out in defense of the DEI policy and made his opinion known to Roker and other executives, according to the suit. He was later sent a notice accusing him of what the suit described as “fabricated” contractual breaches and was suspended and fired soon after.

“They saw the use of ‘BIPOC’ individuals as a handicap or unwelcome obstacle that could be disregarded if necessary and be evaded or overcome—even if it meant using underhanded and deceptive tactics,” the lawsuit stated. “Further, management at Al Roker Entertainment did not see the PBS DEI mandate as a requirement: It was a box to be checked in the most expedient manner possible.”

“Management of Al Roker Entertainment never appreciated or embraced the opportunity the plan afforded those it was intended to benefit,” the suit continued.

Producer Bill Schultz smiling at the camera at the sneak peek of Netflix's 'True and The Rainbow Kingdom' event in Los Angeles
Producer Bill Schultz claims he was illegally fired. WireImage

Though PBS provided most of the show’s financing, Schultz maintained that Al Roker Entertainment had “total authority” over the series, meaning it signed off on decisions. Schultz is demanding that Roker and his company pay him $10 million in damages plus attorneys’ fees.

“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 told The Hollywood Reporter 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.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Al Roker Entertainment for a comment.

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