Producer Bill Schultz Files Lawsuit Against Al Roker Over Alleged DEI Policy Violations

Dustin Satloff/Getty Images via The Hollywood Reporter Photo Source: Dustin Satloff/Getty Images via The Hollywood Reporter

Al Roker and his production company, Al Roker Entertainment, have come under fire in a recent lawsuit filed on Tuesday by television producer Bill Schultz. Schultz, known for his work on renowned shows like "The Simpsons" and "King of The Hill," formerly served as an executive producer on a PBS animated kids TV series “Weather Hunters.”

According to legal docs, he asserts that his termination from the show stemmed from his objections to the company's non-compliance with a diversity initiative, aimed at incorporating minority writers into PBS television projects.

The lawsuit alleges that executives at Al Roker Entertainment "callously disregarded" PBS's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program, also known as DEI.

DEI initiatives are implemented in Hollywood to ensure that a variety of voices, perspectives, and experiences are represented in the entertainment industry, reflecting the diversity of society as a whole. Additionally, DEI efforts aim to address historical inequalities and biases within the industry, creating more opportunities for underrepresented groups and fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment for all individuals working in film and television.

The lawsuit outlines the distinctive ownership setup of "Weather Hunters," in which PBS financed 70 percent of the production expenses for 40 half-hour episodes, while Al Roker Entertainment maintained full ownership. PBS mandated adherence to a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plan as a condition of funding, a critical requirement considering the program's focus on Black families.

Schultz alleges that despite PBS's requirements, executives at Al Roker Entertainment “treated the DEI policy as discretionary.” The lawsuit claims that attempts to boost diversity, including hiring Black writers, were met with resistance from management.

The complaint details an August 2023 meeting where the show's story editor expressed difficulty in meeting production schedules if BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) writers were used. Instead, the editor proposed hiring experienced non-BIPOC writers to write the stories, with BIPOC writers brought in afterward.

Following Schultz's objections and raising concern about the obvious neglect of inclusivity, Schultz was suspended and later terminated. Schultz accuses management of viewing DEI as an obstacle rather than a requirement, hindering efforts to promote diversity in the production.

The lawsuit brings claims for violations of New York's human rights law, breach of contract, negligence, and other allegations against Al Roker Entertainment. Schultz seeks remedies for his termination and asserts the importance of upholding diversity initiatives in television production.

Selena Richards
Selena Richards
Selena earned her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Brandman University, laying the foundation for her interest in and understanding of human behavior. She works full-time at Law Commentary and is dedicated to merging her passion for pop culture with legal insights. Combining her analytical skills and interest in staying updated on trends, she strives to deliver pop culture legal news, bridging the gap between law and contemporary society.
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