Bill Schultz Sues Over DEI Policy Claim

Al Roker and his production banner have been sued by Bill Schultz, former executive producer of an animated children’s television series in development. Schultz (The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Garfield) claims he was fired for objecting to the company’s failure to follow a diversity initiative intended to bring minority writers into PBS television productions.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in New York federal court, alleges that Al Roker Entertainment executives “brutally ignored” a diversity, equity and inclusion program, commonly known as DEI, mandated by PBS, which covered the majority of production expenses for animated series. Weather Hunterstrying to have black writers edit scripts written by white scribes to give the appearance of a diverse writers’ room.

In Hollywood, some consider DEI to be particularly important in efforts to promote diversity, on and behind the screen. The programs, however, have faced legal scrutiny from plaintiffs who say the companies are not properly implementing the initiatives and, more recently, from others who say they constitute discrimination against non-privileged groups, particularly following the Supreme Court’s opinion rejecting the affirmative opinion. action. In March, CBS Studios was sued for allegedly imposing diversity quotas that discriminated against straight white men. Some companies have moved away from explicitly naming racial groups in the DEI, preferring to speak of “underrepresented groups.”

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, Weather Hunters has a unique ownership structure in which the majority of the series’ production costs are covered by PBS, while Al Roker Entertainment retains full ownership of the series. PBS provided 70 percent of the project’s funding for 40 half-hour episodes, conditional on adhering to a DEI plan.

The lawsuit says efforts to promote diversity were particularly vital to PBS given that Weather HuntersThe target population was black families. But Schultz claims that executives at Al Roker Entertainment, to whom Roker allegedly gave “total authority” to run the series, “treated the DEI policy as discretionary and an obstacle to be circumvented.”

Schultz received notice that he had terminated his contract for personnel-related misconduct, among other things, shortly after an August 2023 meeting in which the show’s editor-in-chief said that he “could not meet the production schedule if BIPOC writers were used.” to write the stories” and that “he would need to hire experienced non-BIPOC writers,” the lawsuit claims.

“Instead of giving BIPOC writers opportunities as had been intended, the editor-in-chief, repeating a strategy previously advocated and supported by the management of Al Roker Entertainment when it comes to writing, wanted writers “not -BIPOC “write the stories, then bring in a ‘BIPOC’ writer and once the stories/episodes (have been) shaped, they could be ‘handed over to the BIPOC writers,'” the complaint states.

A month after the meeting, a Black producer critical of the DEI policy’s implementation was reprimanded, according to the lawsuit. Schultz was suspended and then fired around the same time. He criticizes Al Roker Entertainment management for refusing to view DEI as a requirement but rather as a “box to be checked in the fastest possible way” and as an “impediment to the status quo.”

Schultz, a former Carton Networks and Marvel Studios executive who has worked on the series since 2014 and received $544,000 for the initial 40-episode order plus a portion of the net revenue (25% with certain deductions and discounts) , said he informed Roker. of his production banner’s refusal to properly follow PBS’s DEI policy, but that he failed to address the issue by reprimanding allegedly problematic executives.

The suit alleges violations of the New York Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, as well as breach of contract and negligence, among other things.

Roker and Al Roker Entertainment did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“I devoted nine years of my career to Weather Hunters, a project I strongly believe in, with the goal of creating a wonderfully designed show for children to enjoy and learn from,” Schultz, represented by attorneys at Frost LLP, said in a statement. “I also believed, and still believe, that the project benefited from creating opportunities for crucial “new voices” in storytelling and that the Weather Hunters the production had to live up to the ideals it was supposed to represent.

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News Source : www.hollywoodreporter.com


With a penchant for words, Eleon Smith began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, Smith landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, Eleon also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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