It was hard not to be disturbed by the case of Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist who was reportedly fired by ABC affiliate KTBS in Shreveport, La. for defending her hairstyle.
Lee wrote a professional and thoughtful response to a viewer’s tactless critique of her hair, one that she believes was the catalyst for her firing. Lee said she was not made aware of the social media policy prohibiting her response. She claimed the policy was communicated to employers in a meeting she did not attend and was never documented.
Lee’s story was picked up by countless news outlets and she appeared on CNN and took calls from MSNBC and the “Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
Due to the publicity, KTBS issued an explanation for Lee’s firing, saying it was based on policy rather than her hairstyle. Their statement clearly contradicts Lee’s account of events, making this a case of their word against hers:
“On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.
“Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
“Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.”