CBS46 bites back after Paul Ossmann lawsuit comes out

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Meteorologist Paul Ossmann has sued former employer CBS46 for "racially and ethnically discriminatory termination."

Originally posted Wednesday, July 17, 2019 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

CBS46 is taking an unusually public stance against a lawsuit filed last week by its former chief meteorologist Paul Ossmann.

After details came out Monday of Ossmann's accusations of a "racially and ethnically discriminatory termination," CBS46 said he is using this tactic to "draw attention away from his own poor behavior."

Ossmann alleged he was fired in April as a "pretext" to hire a younger, Hispanic female in Jennifer Valdez as chief meteorologist in the name of diversity. He also cited a note written between former evening anchor Sharon Reed and current anchor Thomas Roberts that he said disparaged him and went public last December in a way that caused him "humiliation, pain and suffering."

The station, owned by Meredith Corp., said it stands by Valdez, Reed and Roberts and “will vehemently defend against Mr. Ossmann’s allegations.”

It then provided quotes from each of the three journalists.

“Paul Ossmann’s attempts to humiliate and divert attention from his own actions cannot be tolerated. I am proud of our accomplishments at CBS46 and I will not let Mr. Ossmann diminish our team or me,” Valdez said.

“Paul Ossmann knows the whole truth and he knows it directly from me. The allegations leveled against Sharon and me are baseless and lies. I am prepared to defend myself against his claims,” Roberts said.

“Mr. Ossmann’s lawsuit makes repeated false statements about me and presents others out of context. I am pleased that Meredith intends to vigorously defend me against these false and damaging claims,” said Reed, who left the station in May after her contract was up.

Earlier, the station had said it had received multiple complaints from female employees at CBS46 about Ossmann that “violated our workplace policies.”

A final HR complaint lodged in April led to Ossmann’s dismissal.

Neither CBS46 nor Ossmann have said who made the complaint or what he specifically did to merit a firing. (Ossmann in his lawsuit said the comment was “completely innocuous.”)

The only incident I could confirm with a name attached involved Julie Smith, a former host and reporter for CBS46 who recently left. She had previously filed an HR complaint regarding an alleged sexually offensive remark made to her by Ossmann.

Smith, in a Facebook Messenger note, acknowledged an incident happened but “can’t discuss it. Sorry.”

Ossmann has worked in Atlanta media for more than 30 years, first at WAGA-TV, then 11Alive, then CBS46 since 2012.

While Ossmann declined to comment, he referred to his attorney Jack Rosenberg, who said the case is about "disparate treatment discrimination." He said Reed - who is black - was not punished for her public use of the N word that someone had allegedly used against her. He also said she and Roberts - who is white -  were not punished for those notes that went public.

“Case law is clear,” Rosenberg wrote in a text Wednesday night. “When the same company policies apply to similar employees and one is treated so much worse than the other who committed a much worse infraction, that is a prima facie case of disparate treatment discrimination.”

Reed's attorney Harry Daniels released this statement regarding her, saying there is "clear and convincing evidence shows that Mr. Ossmann is aware that my client did not refer to him or anyone else in any racist manner whatsoever."

Regarding the insults allegedly directed at Ossmann in the note, he said “CBS46 management and their counsel investigated Ossmann’s allegations fully and learned many months ago that Ms Reed did not write these statements. His allegations against Ms. Reed are one hundred percent baseless. As an African American woman Ms. Reed has been subjected to racism and hate and Ms. Reed is the last person who would subject others to what she has experienced over the course of her life and career.”

He said Reed "is currently exploring all legal options
at this time concerning Mr. Ossmann's knowingly false allegations."