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‘Misogyny alive and well in Kelowna’: Former radio host sues station

A Kelowna radio host is suing the Lizard 104.7, alleging that key members of the organization fostered a toxic and misogynistic work environment that ultimately caused her suffering.

Suzanne Milne, who may be better known for her vampy, 30-year on-air persona Sue Tyler, filed the Notice of Claim at the B.C. Supreme Court, Nov. 15, naming the station’s owner, the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group, the station general manager Karl Johnston, along with other former co-workers Russell James, Darrel Haddrell and Craig Foster.

The Notice of Claim states that Milne left a longtime radio career in Ontario for the Kelowna station in 2014 when it was called Power 104.7 with the expectation she was to bring the sexually empowered character she honed to the valley.

Immediately, she noticed a difference in workplace culture.

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“At work alcohol consumption and intoxication was commonplace, acceptable, and promoted,” the Notice of Claim reads. “Sexualized comments and innuendos from male employees toward female employees, including the plaintiff, were acceptable and encouraged both on-air and off-air.”

The Notice of Claim also states that while derogatory and demeaning comments about women employees were accepted, when women made the same comments about men, they were chastised.

If women complained about these comments or inappropriate behaviour, Milne alleges that power and intimidation were used to quell the commentary.

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All of this, Milne alleges, got worse during the period of COVID-19 related layoffs when men who worked at the station “inexplicably directed animosity and issues relating to job insecurity toward their female counterparts in the form of repeated disdainful and undermining comments.”

These comments, she alleges, because less jovial and resulted in nuanced microaggressions toward her and other women who worked at the lizard.

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When Milne brought her complaints to the general manager of the station, she claims they fell on deaf ears.

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She alleges he responded by sending her a video of a noticeably drunk colleague at another radio station speaking at a public event and making fun of her with misogynistic overtones. The video was later circulated.

All the other plaintiffs, she claims, were involved in similar moments of bullying. One example she lists is that when she had shingles, one of the defendants conflated her on-air personality with the condition she was facing and said it was actually gonorrhea.

When she tried to correct him, he laughed and walked away.

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According to the Notice of Claim, when Milne brought all of these examples to the president of Pattison Media, the company acknowledged there were “significant cultural issues” at the Lizard and other Kelowna Pattison stations and sensitivity training was brought in.

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She alleges it made little difference. In fact, according to the document, she was asked to tone down her sexualized image and offer up “a nice mom” instead.

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In turn, according to the claim, the men she worked with continued to broadcast ads that were sexualized and misogynistic, highlighting an ongoing double standard.

In the end, she sent the promotional ads to the company president with the subject headline, “misogyny alive and well in Kelowna.” She says she didn’t get a reply.

On Jan. 4, the company offered her an optional termination which she rejected. She worked from home for two weeks due to COVID-19 isolation and then returned to work for one day before leaving for a medical leave of absence “that was triggered by returning to the toxic workplace.”

She is now on long-term medical leave.

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Milne claims she now struggles with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, hypertension, suicidal thoughts, and the inability to perform her job duties. She also claims that the behaviour of those named in the suit, who created a hostile work environment, amounted to constructive dismissal. She claims that her reputation and chances to work in broadcast again are irreparably damaged.

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In compensation for the infliction of mental suffering, she’s seeking unspecified damages from the company and her former colleagues named in the suit.

The defendants have yet to respond to the suit.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

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