A former on-air Kelowna radio host who previously worked for CKLZ FM, Jim Pattison Broadcast Group and the Pattison Media organization, is suing the owners and several employees for allegedly fostering a toxic and misogynistic work environment.
Suzanne Milne, who portrayed an on-air character named Sue Tyler, started working at CKLZ FM – also known as The Lizard 104.7 – in April 2014, while operating as Power 104.7 at the time.
In a civil lawsuit filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Kelowna on November 15, Milne explains how she was hired to play her character as Sue Tyler at the station, which she created over a 30-year period at the radio.
She noted that the character was designed specifically “to appeal to a male population between the ages of 18 and 40” and “to push the boundaries of female sexuality.”
“Sue Tyler’s character would dress provocatively for public appearances and use sexualized tone and innuendo in her radio shows to specifically and successfully appeal to this target demographic and exemplify women’s sexual empowerment,” said the civil suit.
According to court documents, the male staff of CKLZ FM “did not differentiate between Milne and the character of Sue Tyler” and found it appropriate to speak to and treat her in a demeaning and sexist manner due to the sexual and confident nature of her character.
The toxic and misogynistic work environment at CKLZ FM, Milne said, was a culture encouraged 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 alcohol consumption and intoxication at work was “common, acceptable and encouraged”. Court documents claim that sexualized comments and innuendoes by male employees towards female employees were acceptable and encouraged both on and off the air.
When she reportedly lodged formal complaints about a toxic work environment at Johnston, she said her concerns fell on deaf ears as Johnston “supported, promoted and participated in the inappropriate work culture.”
In August 2019, Milne was suffering from shingles and alleges that Johnston made jokes and publicly suggested that his condition was in fact gonorrhea.
In November 2020, Milne communicated his concerns via email to JPBG and Pattison Media owner Rod Schween, which led to Schween hosting a mandatory sensitivity training course for all CKLZ employees and management. .
Despite the training, Milne says the male employees joked about “how ridiculous the training was,” which ultimately escalated the behavior. It was around this time that she said Johnston asked her to “tone down” the character of Sue Tyler and “be a good mom” instead, with no more sexualized content on the air.
After two weeks of COVID-19 isolation requirements, Milne said she only returned to work one day “before having to start medical leave triggered by returning to a toxic workplace.”
She is currently on long-term medical leave and has not returned to broadcasting.
In the lawsuit, she said toxic work conduct resulted in a number of mental suffering, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts.
As a result, she said she believed she would no longer be able to work in broadcasting and the trauma had forced her into early retirement. She seeks unspecified damages from the six defendants.
Neither Pattison nor the defendants responded to the request and denied commenting.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.