WRAL response to termination claims

Posted September 18, 2020
Updated November 10, 2021

Former lottery drawing host Emelia Cowans has accused WRAL TV in social media posts and in talking to other local media of firing her because she had Covid 19, and because WRAL is a racist organization. The company made this response to her claims:

On August 7, 2020, WRAL-TV terminated the contract of Emelia Cowans, an independent contractor for WRAL-TV, for blatant disregard of the station’s essential health and safety protocols established during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms. Cowans entered the workplace on August 4, 2020, while having Covid-19 symptoms and awaiting Covid-19 test results. Her conscious actions resulted in multiple quarantine actions for WRAL staff and contractors and in the aggregate put other’s health at risk, something we have worked tirelessly as an organization to manage.

As a response to her contract termination, Ms. Cowans has provided incomplete and inaccurate information to local media and on her personal social media accounts. In her messages, Ms. Cowans has stated that WRAL is a racist organization and wrongfully terminated her. This is not an accurate description of the separation and is an unacceptable representation of the separation and of WRAL. To be clear, the termination of Ms. Cowans’s contract, as is true with all other personnel actions within the company, was in no way racially motivated. Ms. Cowans violated station Covid-19 health and safety protocols putting multiple people at risk. Ms. Cowans has admitted to the station in writing that she had symptoms prior to when she entered the station on August 4th for the Lottery drawing, and even had swapped a shift with a co-worker the day before because she wasn’t feeling well.  She then went to take a Covid test on August 4th, but came to work before the results were made available, never alerting managers that she had symptoms and had taken a test.   She did not notify WRAL management until after her test result came back positive.   At that point she had exposed at least 7 people.  WRAL has treated Ms. Cowans no differently than it would any other individual who failed to adhere to those essential health and safety protocols.

Multiple WRAL personnel of all races have had exposure or possible exposure to Covid-19 since March. All of them have followed posted health and safety protocols and NOT entered the building. WRAL has made schedule accommodations and worked with each individual to handle quarantine until it was deemed safe for them to return to work. Ms. Cowans is the only person to blatantly disregard the safety and health of WRAL staff by not following the specific safety protocols we have in place. This is the only reason for the termination of her contract.

WRAL-TV’s health and safety protocols during this pandemic comply with federal, state, and local government recommendations and are similar to the best practices implemented by other North Carolina workplaces. WRAL enforces the protocols to ensure the health and well-being of staff and guests. Those protocols are clearly posted on all approved entrances to the building and include:

  • Temperatures must be taken prior to entering
  • Do not enter the building if you recently have had or are having symptoms of Covid-19 or a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.
  • Return to your vehicle and call your manager or HR.
  • Do not come to work if you are experiencing any of the following:
    • A fever, that is, a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher
    • Coughing
    • Chills
    • Trouble breathing
  • Notify your supervisor immediately if you are ill. Stay home from work, do not go out in public, and avoid contact with the public.

This misplaced outrage by Ms. Cowans appears now to simply be a money grab. Her lawyer sent WRAL a letter on Thursday, Sept. 17 stating she intends to keep sharing her story publicly, but that she’s willing to stop sharing it publicly and with media outlets if WRAL pays her $300,000.