EXCLUSIVE: Meteorologist Paul Ossmann sues CBS46 for ‘racially and ethnically discriminatory termination’

CBS46 said he was dismissed based on ‘multiple complaints’ from female co-workers

Meteorologist Paul Ossmann was terminated April 8, 2019 by CBS46.

Originally posted Monday, July 15, 2019 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Paul Ossmann, former chief meteorologist at CBS46 (WGCL-TV), has sued his former employer for "racially and ethnically discriminatory termination," accusing the CBS affiliate of fostering a "racially hostile work environment."

In response, the CBS affiliate owned by Meredith Corp. released a statement saying that Ossmann was terminated April 8, 2019 “for cause based on multiple complaints from female co-workers of conduct that violated our workplace policies. CBS46 conducted investigations into each of these multiple complaints. Ossmann’s discharge was not only appropriate, but necessary and consistent with our values. Meredith will defend vigorously against Mr. Ossmann’s false allegations that attempt to obscure that fact.”

In the lawsuit, filed July 12 in the United States Northern District of Georgia against CBS46’s owner, Ossmann said he was first suspended in April “for allegedly making an inappropriate comment to a co-worker.”

He said he “was not given a written statement from the co-worker, nor allowed to provide a written statement in response.” He was then terminated with two years remaining on his contract. He said the “alleged comment was completely innocuous.”

The name of the aforementioned co worker was not released in the lawsuit or by the employer.

Ossmann, who previously worked at 11Alive (WXIA-TV) and WAGA-TV, did not reference "multiple complaints" against him by female co-workers in his lawsuit and declined to comment further when contacted Monday night. 
Instead, Ossmann in the lawsuit accused general manager Lyle Banks of getting rid of him as a "pretext" to promote an Hispanic female as chief meteorologist, dubbing it "illegal activism" to advance diversity within the CBS46 newsroom.

Ossmann joined CBS46 in 2012 as a part timer, eventually moved to full time and was named chief meteorologist in 2017. His departure, when it came out in April, was sudden and unexplained. Banks arrived as the general manager in early 2018.

As a 62-year-old white man, he said he also faced "racist and ageist" comments by now former evening anchor Sharon Reed "and/or" current evening co-anchor Thomas Roberts. He said Reed called him a "white dog" and a "piece of [excrement.]"

Next to his name is also the word "Kellog," which he said in the lawsuit is shorthand for a Kellogg's "cornflake," which is defined in the urban dictionary as "an old, tired conservative or Republican who whines about everything."

Ossmann was referencing a note exchanged between Reed and Roberts in the newsroom that was leaked to a website www.ftvlive.com last December.
Roberts, in a recent interview, acknowledged that notes posted on the ftvlive.com website were real but said his reference to Ossmann as  "POS" was innocent. He was relatively new at the station and was noting to Reed about how the use of "POS" in the teleprompter to mean Paul Ossmann (first initial, first two letters of his last name) kept reminding him of the phrase "piece of [excrement.]"

He said he was not referencing Ossmann as that negative phrase and personally apologized to him later for the misunderstanding.

This is the one note ftvlive.com procurred that Thomas Roberts and Sharon Reed exchanged on set at CBS46 and leaked to the site. I blurred out the curse word. Roberts said he wrote the part about "POS," which means "horrible," "Kellog" and "White Dog" were all written by Reed.

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Reed, who left CBS46 in May after her contract was up, has not commented about the context regarding the "White Dog" and "Kellog" references in the note. She also wrote "Horrible!" after Roberts' "POS" reference.

On Monday night, she referred questions to her attorney. I sent him an email Monday night and am awaiting a response.

“These comments went viral and caused Plaintiff significant humiliation, pain and suffering,” the lawsuit said. This was evidence, it continued, of a “hostile working environment” and when Ossmann complained to management, he said no action was taken.

He said in the lawsuit that he has also “filed a charge of discrimination based on race, age, and sex, against Meredith with the Federal Communications Commission... The charge is currently  being investigated by the FCC.”

Ossmann did not ask for specific dollar amounts in the lawsuit. Rather, he said he is seeking lost wages, compensatory damages in part for “emotional pain” and “mental anguish,” as well as punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

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