MARQUETTE- Former TV6 morning co-anchor Sarah Blakely announced her departure from the station in a recent Facebook post, citing Gray Television’s vaccine mandate and ongoing sexual harassment from former coworker Shawn Householder. Blakely did report this to her HR department, in which after a corporate-led investigation let Householder keep his job.
We have a call out to TV6’s HR Department to get their take on the investigation and awaiting a reply.
Blakely posted the following message to her TV6 Facebook page:
“I am a ball of emotions right now. It’s been a hellish few weeks, few months… but I’ll try my best to explain myself. My goal here isn’t to change anyone’s mind about anything. I don’t even presume anyone will care about what I have to say. This is simply to explain why I’ve made the decision I made in an effort to quell false assumptions and because, as a journalist, I value truth and transparency.
I am no longer employed at TV6. Yes, it’s because of the company’s new vaccine policy. But for me personally, it’s so much more than that. Aside from my own personal feelings about a vaccine mandate (which I realize there are people who don’t agree with me, and I’m fine with that), it was time for me to step away for my mental health. The newsroom has felt increasingly toxic for me, and slowly over the past year I haven’t really felt myself. I’m sure some of you have noticed that I’m not quite the same on air, especially the past few months. I’ve cried at work more days than I can count, I’ve had horrible insomnia for weeks, and my anxiety has been at a level I’ve never experienced in my entire life.
So when the policy was announced (exacerbating my anxiety), I had the option to file an exemption, but I chose not to in favor of letting them fire me. I have been so unhappy that I have been wanting to leave for months but was trapped by my contract, so this policy was, in many ways, my escape route. My last day would have been September 30, but I decided to resign early because I simply couldn’t spend one more second there.
Part of my unhappiness stems from the mishandling of sexual harassment by Shawn Householder. It’s a very long story, but in short, he’s been making inappropriate advances toward me for years despite my consistent rejection, and it culminated in him coming to my house uninvited and barging inside to profess his love for me. I was terrified and extremely shaken by the incident.
I told my superiors about it and everything he’s done to me for years, and after a corporate-led HR investigation, they let him keep his job. His desk was moved away from mine. That was last November. Two months later, they made him Employee of the Month. About five months after that, they moved him back into the newsroom about 15 feet away from me despite the fact that another female coworker alerted them that he was making comments about me that she found concerning. They even once asked me if I’d ever be ok with Shawn being on the same newscasts as me again. Shawn continued to make vulgar, sexual comments in the workplace, and falsely told my coworkers that I’m bipolar and that I tried to get him fired for no reason.
On more than one occasion, I could hear him undoing his pants behind me in the makeup room. He was eventually fired in July after screaming at this other female coworker (to whom he also made a host of inappropriate comments, including telling her he was going to give her a titty twister). Upon his firing, station management refused to say anything to employees about sexual harassment, even though I told them they should review the sexual harassment policy with employees. And believe me, this is just the cliff notes. Shawn now has an active warrant for his arrest for coming into my home uninvited, so at least someone will finally hold him accountable for his misbehavior.
It is for this reason, and many others, why I have no interest in complying with Gray’s new vaccine policy that the company claims is ”for the health and safety of employees”— a policy voted on unanimously by all station general managers, according to Gray. A company that can’t handle sexual harassment properly cannot and will not be trusted with my overall health. I’m sure some of you may clap back with, “They don’t owe you a job,” and you’re absolutely right. In the same way, I don’t owe them my talent, my time, my body, my mental health, or my loyalty. And a manager that so disrespectfully called the botched departure of Karl Bohnak “just a blip” is not someone I want to work for anymore.
I want to thank you all for welcoming this Hoosier into your homes all these years, not once but twice, from my days as the Houghton-Hancock bureau reporter to my return to anchor the morning news to my move to the evening news. There is certainly some deep sadness and disappointment over letting go of my childhood dream, but I know I’m making the best decision for my health— because I know what’s best for my health. The Upper Peninsula is truly my heart and my home, and I’m not going anywhere. I anticipate there will be some people who will come here to try to trash my character and throw labels on me, but those people don’t know me, and I am unconcerned with the opinions of those who have never even met me.
Please, if you call the newsroom, remember that the people answering the phone have nothing to do with any of this. And if you see TV6 reporters out in the field, please leave them alone. I can tell you honestly that many of them are unhappy with how this is all being handled, and many of them are scared and battling high anxiety because of all this. And if you’re in a similar position about to lose your job over a vaccine mandate, just remember that you need to do what’s best for you and your family, whatever that decision may be. But don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think is right. Don’t be afraid to say, “No.” Your company doesn’t owe you a job, and you don’t owe your company authority over your body. Employees can be replaced, and employers can be replaced.
Getting vaccinated against COVID does not hold a monopoly on ways to care for yourself and others, and right now I’m taking the necessary steps to take care of the part of my health that is suffering greatly. No, I’m not doing ok. But I will be someday.”
Householder has a warrant out for his arrest following a breaking and entering charge filed on September 3, according to Marquette’s 96th District Court.
Businesses are now pulling advertising from the station as a result of the vaccine mandates and the unlawful firing of employees.
You can read our previous story here regarding the firing of TV6’s Meteorologist, Karl Bohnak.