A former Kelowna on-air radio host who previously worked for CKLZ FM, a Jim Pattison Broadcast Group and Pattison Media organization, is suing the owners and multiple employees for allegedly fostering a toxic and misogynistic workplace environment.
Suzanne Milne, who portrayed an on-air persona named Sue Tyler, began working at CKLZ FM – also known as The Lizard 104.7 – in April 2014, when it operated as Power 104.7 at the time.
In a civil suit filed in BC Supreme Court in Kelowna on Nov. 15, Milne details how she was hired to perform her Sue Tyler character at the station, which she crafted over a 30-year span in radio.
She noted that the character was designed specifically “to appeal to a male demographic between the ages of 18 and 40,” and “to push the envelope on women’s sexuality.”
“The Sue Tyler character would dress provocatively for public appearances and use a sexualized tone and innuendo in her radio shows to specifically, and successfully, appeal to this target demographic and exemplify sexual empowerment to women,” the civil suit stated.
According to court documents, male staff at CKLZ FM “did not differentiate between Milne and the Sue Tyler character,” and deemed it appropriate to speak and treat her in a belittling and sexist manner because of her character’s sexual and confident nature.
The toxic and misogynistic workplace environment at CKLZ FM, said Milne, was a culture fostered and promoted by the station’s owners, Jim Pattison Broadcast Group (JPBG) and Pattison Media, as well as general manager Karl Johnston.
Milne alleges that at-work alcohol consumption and intoxication were “common, acceptable and promoted.” Court documents claim that sexualized comments and innuendos from male employees towards female employees were acceptable and encouraged both on-air and off-air.
When she allegedly brought forward formal complaints regarding a toxic work environment to Johnston, she said her concerns fell on deaf ears as Johnston “supported, fostered and participated in the inappropriate workplace culture.”
In August 2019, Milne was suffering from shingles and alleges that Johnston made jokes and publicly suggested that her condition was actually gonorrhea.
In November 2020, Milne emailed her concerns to JPBG and Pattison Media owner Rod Schween, which led to Schween organizing a mandatory sensitivity training course for all CKLZ employees and management.
Despite the training, Milne claims that male employees joked about “how ridiculous the training was,” ultimately escalating the behaviour. It was around this time where she said Johnston instructed her to “tone down” the Sue Tyler character and “be a nice mom” instead, with no more sexualized content on air.
Following two weeks of COVID-19 isolation requirements, Milne said that she returned to work for only one day “before needing to start a medical leave of absence that was triggered by returning to the toxic workplace.”
She currently remains on long-term medical leave and has not returned to broadcasting.
In the suit, she stated that the toxic work conduct has resulted in a number of mental sufferings, which include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.
Consequently, she said that believes that she will not be able to work in broadcasting again and that the trauma has forced her into early retirement. She is seeking unspecified damages from all six defendants.
Pattison nor the defendants have responded to the claim and denied to make a comment.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.