IssuesAtlanta-Based Media Conglomerate Purges Unvaccinated Employees from Local Texas News Stations

Gray Television has fired dozens of its employees for being unvaccinated, refusing to grant even an exemption for medical reasons.
October 18, 2021
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Since 1988, meteorologist Tom Miller provided weather forecasts to the residents of Texoma from the Sherman-based KXII.

Miller’s last day at the station came just weeks ago as the station’s owner, Gray Television headquartered in Atlanta, implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees.

While the beloved meteorologist has not been outspoken in public about what led to his departure, KXII evening news anchor Dan Thomas shared a video explaining how he had been fired by Gray because he did not receive the vaccination.

Thomas says he sought an exemption from the company’s policy at the advice of his doctors since he had already recovered from an infection of the virus and is allergic to some of the ingredients in the vaccine.

“Finally, after several days, I got a generic response back,” said Thomas. “They had turned down my request for an accommodation.”

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“They didn’t care what the vaccine did to me or its side effects or my past medical history. None of that mattered; they just said it would be an undue hardship on the company to have me employed there,” said Thomas.

Gray offered Thomas a choice: get fully vaccinated within two days or have his employment terminated.

Thomas appeared at the Texas Capitol this week to testify in favor of House Bill (HB) 155 which would codify exemptions from COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

During the hearing, Thomas told lawmakers that several other employees at his station, including the morning meteorologist, were terminated for refusing the vaccine.

The employees at KXII are not alone.

Gray is one of the largest media broadcasters in the country and owns over 150 stations. In recent weeks, the company has been on the warpath to oust all employees who do not step in line with the corporate vaccine policy, apparently without much regard to requests for exemptions.

From Springfield, Missouri to Biloxi, Mississippi and Cheyenne, Wyoming, many reports have surfaced of Gray employees being forced out of their positions over the vaccine.

While Thomas’ termination came before Gov. Greg Abbott expanded his executive order to prohibit any entity from compelling an individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, another Gray-owned station in Lubbock has seen firings over the employer mandate since then.

Eleah Lehnen, who had been an account executive for KCBD, was also terminated from her employment with the company earlier this week over its policy.

She told The Texan that the company set a requirement for all management to be vaccinated on September 15 and all other employees in non-management positions to be vaccinated by October 1.

On October 11, just before Abbott expanded his executive order, several employees from the corporate office visited the station for a meeting. The office manager distributed a form that day asking employees to give their permission to disclose personal medical information to the company.

Lehnen refused to sign the form and brought in a copy of Abbott’s executive order the next day instead. But when she found out that the local sales manager was let go that morning for non-compliance, she knew the inevitable was coming and was prepared to record the conversation.

“We cannot allow you to interact with any other Gray employees,” a corporate official told her.

The other Gray official there chimed in to clarify “today will be your last day.”

“And I’m sorry for that,” he said, before Lehnen quickly replied.

“Don’t apologize,” she said. “I am so proud of this moment because I can go home today and I can tell my daughter that I stood up for what I believe in, regardless of the tyrannical government and the tyrannical business that I’m no longer employed for.”

Lehnen said there are dozens of other Gray employees across the country who have been fired for refusing the vaccination. 

“I’m seeing and hearing all the stories of these employees who file for exemptions, medical and religious, who asked for accommodations, whether that be work from home or whatnot, and none of those were approved,” Lehnen told The Texan. “And some are getting denial notifications for an exemption, but they didn’t even submit an exemption.”

Under Abbott’s executive order, fines may be levied against violators, but it is unclear whether or not any enforcement actions are being taken against Gray.

Lehnen said that the way Gray is continuing to fire its employees, she is “sure their legal team is very confident in what they’re doing and telling them to move forward with it.”

Neither Gray nor the Office of the Attorney General replied to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.