NPR v. Juan Williams

Does anyone know of a so-called independent review by a law firm that found the employer was completely un-justified in its actions (and thus potentially liable for serious monetary damages). I suspect that would be the last time said  firm was hired to do an independent investigation.  Frankly, I’m no fan of Juan Williams but  come on NPR … Adopt clear policies and processes for NPR’ employees and apply them uniformly.  PGB

NPR Senior Analyst Juan Williams, a ten-year veteran of public radio, received a telephone call last August from NPR Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss saying, in effect, “You’re Fired.”

True, Mr. Williams had made some incredibly stupid comments on Fox News about getting nervous on airplanes when he sees individuals dressed in Muslim garb. But is he the only NPR pundit who has made inane comments in pursuit of political punditry? No. And  don’t employees have a right to due process and to be treated civilly and with basic human dignity in the termination process?

NPR issued a report on the firing on Jan. 6, 2011 that said (based upon a supposedly independent investigation by a DC law firm paid by NCR) that Williams’ firing was warranted because he worked under a contract that gave both sides the right to terminate on 30 days notice for any reason. However, the report also states that NPR Chief Executive Officer Vivian Schiller wouldn’t be getting her bonus this year because of concern over the way Williams’ termination was handled and that Ms. Weiss was … er … resigning.

According to the report:

“— Williams’ contract was terminated in accordance with its terms. The contract gave both parties the right to terminate on 30 days’ notice for any reason. The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure. However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the Board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams’ contract termination.

“In light of the review and feedback provided to them, the Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review. The recommendations and remedial measures range from new internal procedures concerning personnel and on air-talent decisions to taking appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination… “

NPR Ombudsman David Folkenflik later stated the law firm that NPR hired to conduct the review: “found that the termination of Williams’ contract was entirely legal. But the board said the report called for a full review of the company’s policies on ethics and outside appearances and for them to be applied consistently to all personnel.”

About pgbarnes
Attorney at Law

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