Jennifer Valentyne, a well-known Toronto media personality who worked on Citytv’s Breakfast Television and at radio station Q107, has posted a 12-minute plus video on social media that outlines the abuse and gender discrimination she faced from a co-worker.
That co-worker has been revealed to be John Derringer, the host of Q107’s Derringer in the Morning. The video is compelling, and laudable, and you can see the entire video below.
“What would you do if a co-worker screamed at you, belittled you, called you names, shut you out, brought you to tears, and then laughed when he told you to cry all you want?” she says. “That he didn’t feel one bit sorry for you, and let you know with utter conviction that if you went to HR, they would choose him? Like so many women, I have put up and shut up.”
Valentyne served up a legal side dish with her video – a human rights complaint. She also made accusations that there was rampant vaping in the studio, a significant workplace health and safety issue that caused her health issues including bronchitis and forced her onto medication to help her breathe.
The video has been dissected elsewhere in detail, but what’s interesting from our standpoint is the reaction from Corus. Here’s the statement that was released by Q107, according to Global News:
“We aware that Ms. Valentyne has voiced concerns about her time in the broadcasting industry, including from her time with us,” it reads.
“A few years ago, Ms. Valentyne’s shared certain concerns and we took action to review at that time. There is also a process underway with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We have had mediated conversations with her, been responsive to proceedings, and we are waiting determination of next steps. We take these matters seriously and look forward to a resolution.
“Over the past two days we have received new information about workplace concerns in our station. We have referred these to our ethics and conduct team and have retained Rachel Turnpenney from Turnpenney Milne LLP to conduct an external investigation. Effective immediately the show Derringer in the Morning will be on hiatus pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
Too little, too late
Clearly, Corus knew it had a problem on its hands. While we don’t know what action the company took in response to the complaint Valentyne made years ago, it clearly wasn’t adequate.
Predictably, complainants are now coming out of the woodwork with allegations of additional bad behaviour on the part of both Derringer and a tolerance at Corus for what looks like an extremely toxic workplace culture.
The lesson here is quite simple. Employers, and HR departments in particular, need to act decisively when any legitimate complaints are brought forward.
The hiring of Turnpenney to conduct an independent investigation is laudable – but that should have been done years ago when Valentyne first made her complaints known to management. Instead, it simply looks like Corus was forced to do the right thing by a well-respected media veteran who had finally hit a breaking point.
That’s not good HR. And it’s not good PR. From the outside, it looks like Corus didn’t take the initial complaints from employees seriously enough. Now they’re dealing with a PR nightmare and a legal headache on top of a serious HR issue.