By Andrew Hornery
Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O’s top-rating radio show has been named in a lawsuit against media group ARN by one of its former personalities who has accused management of bullying, permitting a homophobic culture and that he was “discriminated for being gay”.
Former showbiz correspondent John Caldwell, who hosted the Celeb HQ show on KIIS FM, has launched the action with the Fair Work Commission, filing papers in Sydney on Tuesday.
He has retained Harmers Workplace Lawyers, the same firm behind former David Jones public relations executive Kristy Fraser-Kirk’s aborted $37 million punitive damages claim in 2010 against the retailer after she accused her former boss, high-flying executive Mark McInnes, of “inappropriate behaviour”. McInnes resigned over the scandal.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Caldwell claims he “repeatedly complained about these issues to his managers, saying he would need to leave if they were not addressed.”
“After Mr Caldwell escalated the seriousness of his complaints, he was sacked by ARN in October after an alleged complaint from another KIIS FM employee. He was not told any details of the complaint and was at no stage interviewed or asked for his side of the story,” the statement said.
“Mr Caldwell now believes that an incident at the recent October Australian Commercial Radio Awards (ACRAs) between himself and a fellow KIIS FM employee was the cause of his dismissal. In that incident, John was subject to an aggressive verbal homophobic attack by the fellow employee.”
According to Caldwell, the “verbal attack” included words to the effect of “you’re a homo”, “poofter”, “f—ing faggot” and “I’m not a f—ing faggot”.
“Later the same evening, the aggressive verbal attack was continued by the fellow employee. Prior to his sacking, and shortly after the ACRAs, Mr Caldwell made a complaint about the homophobic verbal attack he had been subjected to,” the statement says.
Caldwell claims he has “endured years of bullying at ARN, bullying that had caused him to feel
suicidal at times”.
He also accuses an unnamed “senior executive” who regularly told him words to the effect of “We just don’t upset the KJ [Kyle and Jackie] machine. If you’ve got a problem, we can find a workaround, but we never upset the KJ machine”.
However a spokesperson for ARN said on Wednesday afternoon: “ARN are not aware of any proceedings commenced against KIIS FM or ARN by John Caldwell, and will rigorously defend any claims if they commence.
“John Caldwell’s contract was ended in October. Due to privacy reasons we don’t comment on individual contracts, however John was given the reasons for his contract ending.
“ARN prides itself on its passionate work in the area of diversity and inclusion, particularly with LGBTQI initiatives and the broader community.”
Caldwell describes himself as an “established anti-bullying advocate”, however he has declined to make any further comment.
In October, Fairfax Media revealed Caldwell had split with ARN in mysterious circumstances following an alleged incident with another employee at a “work-related event” and involved claims of “inappropriate behaviour”.
At the time Caldwell said: “When I’m able to share my side I’ll definitely be in touch.”
A spokeswoman for KIIS FM’s parent radio network ARN said in October: “Due to privacy reasons we don’t comment on individual contracts, however we can confirm that John Caldwell is no longer working with ARN.
“ARN takes the welfare of its employees very seriously and our commitment to putting the health and safety of our workers above all other considerations is clearly expressed in our policies, and adhered to.”