Rhonda A. Lee Fired Not Once But Twice!

In December 2012, I blogged about Metrologist Rhonda A. Lee, who was terminated from KBTS in Shreveport, Louisiana.   This blog was housed on the CAREER Magazine website, which is my business blog where I tend to blog more on “HR policy and best practices”.  I use my personal blog here on the Stephanieharper.com site to freely share my professional opinions about trending news and more personal things.

After a two year hiatus, that shared I would be bringing CAREER Conversations™ back (a radio show I did for 6 years on BlogTalkRadio which piggy backed off the career tips I provide on Monday mornings as the Employment Expert for Atlanta’s 91.9FM).   One of my deciding factors to bring this show back to life is so much is happening with employment and social media.   More recently, I really wanted to have the “Rhonda A. Lee Conversation” and soon after, we learned about the Applebees/Pastor saga, which I also blogged about.

One reason, I wanted to have this conversation is so many people have jumped on the “Re-hire Rhonda A. Lee” bandwagon simply because she is stating KBTS fired her because she had short hair and choose to defend it against a viewer who made a comment about it.   My co-host, Anetra and I had planned to have a “professional courtesy” discussion on our CAREER Conversations™ show Monday, February 11, 2013 and include Rhonda Lee in the topic.  Shortly after Anetra and I decided to include Rhonda’s story, she sent me a message that Rhonda A. Lee would be on The Steve Harvey show later that day.

I watched The Steve Harvey Show hoping that Rhonda A. Lee would say something say that would change my mind about her termination.  However she made comments that made me stick to my original opinion (which is KBTS rightly terminated Ms. Lee).  Rhonda Lee continues to state that KBTS does not have a “social media policy” , however media outlets have reported that all employees were given the email directive on August 31, 2012 not to respond to negative comments on social media platforms including Facebook.  When interviewed by CNN Contributor, Roland Martin, Lee said, “she never saw it!”

On The Steve Harvey Show, Lee confirmed  what KBTS has publicly stated “they had spoken to her multiple times about responding to viewers”.  By her own words, Lee had a conversation with her employer about viewer comments.  One occasion was after a toy drive where Lee responded to a viewer and her employer asked her “why does she feel the need to respond?” To which she replied on Steve Harvey’s show, “she felt that was a teaching moment”.  Let me just pause here to state, KBTS was not employing or paying Lee to give “teaching moments”, but to deliver the weather. Another occasion where she responded to the viewer who comments on her hair.   While Lee volunteered to tell Steve Harvey that the viewer apologized to her, she neglected to freely share that the viewer who made the comments was mentally ill and has been bi-polar since birth and that this was her second job in 11 months.   For those who are not aware, Lee was also terminated from Ausstin’s KXAN According to Lee, her previous employer discriminated against her by not including her in promotional ads.  (Unless her contract states they must, that is their choice, right?).   Ms. Lee has a pending discrimination suite in the U.S. District Court in Austin, TX.

When I first heard about this, like many of you, I was outraged –  – because I thought it was another woman (and a black woman at that) getting the short end of the stick – – After doing a bit more research, I don’t think this is about Ms. Lee’s  hair “at all”.  If Rhonda A. Lee was my client, I would advise her that if she is going to be in the public, she needs to grow some thick skin and be mindful that there is a time a place for everything! Everything wont always feel good, put if you are in the public eye, you are also open to the public’s opinion.  As a black woman who spent many years in Corporate America, I understand how difficult it can be sometimes to hold your tongue when you feel that you have been wronged. (Did I ever tell you about my previous boss, who told me,  “he doesn’t give a damn about my HR Mumbo Jumbo!”)   There was a ton that I wanted to say to him, but instead, I tenured my resignation. My point, sometimes Silence is Golden,  you can made a larger splash by not saying a word.   I also kept my mouth shut when he called my cell phone repeatedly asking me how to access the safe in his office.

This article was written by

Stephanie C. Harper, PHR, CCP, CHRM is a certified human resources professional by trade with more than 20 years experience in the field. An author, career expert, speaker and radio host she is also the Founder and Publisher of CAREER Magazine. She has been featured by The Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Greater Diversity News, Trinity Broadcasting Network and the Steve Harvey TV Show (to name a few).

2 Comments

  1. Leslie March 12, 2013 (12:23 pm)

    HR policy may exists but what about a society’s moral policy stroke obligation to stop the vilification of black women by expecting them to conform to looking more Caucasian friendly. The station may have heard a policy it would be good to know what they have done beyond firing Rhonda to extol the virtues of a diverse society or is that covered in their employee diversity policy. The firing of Rhonda may be acceptable to you as a HR professional but what are the chances the station would have defended her from the comments?

    • Stephanie March 12, 2013 (8:23 pm)

      Leslie:

      Thank you for your response. The station did not ask Rhonda Lee to conform to “look Caucasian friendly” – they hired her with her look! They asked Rhonda NOT to respond to viewers. It’s very easy to take this and make personal when it’s actually policy. The station is not “obligated” to defend her from public comments. It’s an unreasonable expectation for any of us to think that EVERYONE will sing our praises. They certainly could have removed the comments or had the PR department respond, but Rhonda did not give them the opportunity to do that. She responded to the viewer and then took the issue to the attention of her employer. She should have taken the issue to her employer and let them handle it. The troubling part for me is Rhonda continues to tell people (her appearance on the Steve Harvey TV Show) that the viewer apologized to her, but she leaves out that the viewer was diagnosed as bi-polar from birth. There’s so much more to this story than what is on the surface.

      I’m not sure if you read the first entry that I made on this topic, but they also fired a white male for the same reason. So this is clearly not a racial move on the behalf of the station.

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