WINNIPEG – A former radio host in Winnipeg who was fired after making comments about transgender people is suing for wrongful dismissal.
Dave Wheeler, whose real name is Christopher Wheeler Johnson, is seeking more than $1.4 million in damages from 92.1 CITI FM and its parent company, Rogers Media.
Johnson was let go in July after he made comments on-air that compared transgender people to actors who pretend to be different things.
In his lawsuit, Johnson says the radio station hired him to be controversial and promoted him that way.
He also says Rogers made untrue and defamatory remarks about him to the media after he was fired.
The lawsuit contains allegations that have not been proven in court and Rogers Media has not yet filed a statement of defence.
“It was an express or implied term of (Johnson’s) employment with Rogers … that (Johnson’s) on-air persona was to be provocative and controversial, and he was to push the boundaries and engage listeners in controversial social topics,” the statement of claim reads.
“Rogers has recklessly, unfairly and intentionally harmed (Johnson’s) reputation and has acted in a high-handed, wanton and unfair manner.”
A Rogers Media spokesperson said Friday that Johnson was fired after multiple disciplinary incidents, including one suspension.
“After repeated warnings, he continued to violate the company’s core values and offend our audiences,” Andrea Goldstein wrote in an email.
“We felt we had no choice but to end our relationship with him, as we do not tolerate employees who display this type of behaviour.”
Johnson’s estimate of damages is based on his six-figure salary plus pension and other benefits he was earning under a five-year contract renewal signed in 2017.
The contract provided for an annual base salary of $335,000, plus a one-time signing bonus of $100,000 and semi-annual bonuses of $10,000 if the radio station remained the highest-rated in Winnipeg among adults aged 25-54.