Lehnen confirmed that Jackson and two other employees — including KCBD’s general sales manager and news director — were fired last week, while she was among three employees who were terminated Tuesday.
KCBD-TV and its parent company, GrayTV, released a brief statement to the Avalanche-Journal’s request for comment Wednesday morning.
GrayTV implemented a policy requiring employees be fully vaccinated
“I can tell you they are no longer with the station. KCBD (GrayTV) does not comment on personnel matters,” reads the statement, which refers further questions to Interim General Manager Patrick Stacey. Stacey is listed as the vice president and general manager of GrayTV property KLTV in Tyler. He was not immediately available for comment.
Eleah Lehnen, who was a KCBD account executive, said she was fired Tuesday morning after the company’s human resources officials told her she was in violation of its COVID-19 vaccine policy.
Other current and former KCBD employees have also confirmed the terminations.
Lehnen said that, as of Oct. 1, GrayTV implemented a policy requiring employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, with few exceptions offered.
That move comes after President Joe Biden last month announced a federal mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans, according to The Associated Press.
But earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced an executive order banning companies and other entities from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations — creating a potential conflict between state and federal policy, with employers caught in the middle. Lehnen said she’s visiting with an attorney, who she declined to identify, but added that she’s hopeful Abbott’s order could help the former employees’ position.
Lehnen said her doctor advised her against getting a COVID-19 vaccination earlier this year, claiming that because she’d already been diagnosed with the disease her antibodies would be adequate protection. Banning mandates:Gov. Abbott issues executive order banning vaccine mandates by private entities
She said she’d heard from others that Gray was generally not accepting employees’ requests for religious or other exemptions from its COVID-19 vaccination mandate, so she didn’t request an exemption. “I never submitted an exemption because I was told by my management team that (GrayTV) were denying them, they were not accepting them, and so I was just trying to ride it out,” she said.
Before that, she said, GrayTV was allowing each general manager to handle implementation of the policy at their stations. But starting last week and through the first of this week, corporate officials were interviewing employees, asking them to sign paperwork releasing their medical records for verification of their vaccine status, with Lehnen and at least two other employees being fired Tuesday for violating the policy, she said.
“An anonymous tip got called in to GrayTV,” she said. “So last Tuesday, they sent a group of attorneys to Lubbock to interview, interrogate, employees at KCBD.” Lehnen said that it’s her understanding the issue came to a head early last week, when GrayTV was tipped off to “a rumor” that there were fake COVID-19 vaccine cards at KCBD, although she did not say if there was truth to the claim.