Jan 23, 2024 - News

Former Q101 host sues Cumulus Media over alleged harassment

Illustration of an exclamation point over a radio dial

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A former Q101 host and executive producer is suing one of the biggest radio networks in town, alleging that he suffered workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

Driving the news: Justin Nettlebeck, who resigned from WKQX in 2023 after almost five years at the station, filed a lawsuit against parent company Cumulus Media last month.

Context: Nettlebeck accuses then-Cumulus VP/Rock Formats and WKQX program director Troy Hanson of "harassment and discriminatory treatment on the basis of his gender, including sexual harassment." Nettlebeck alleges that Hanson was verbally abusive, using derogatory slurs while yelling at him and others.

  • Nettlebeck also claims that he was retaliated against after he reported such behavior.

Details: The lawsuit includes allegations that Hanson:

  • Showed sexually explicit materials to Nettlebeck while he was on air.
  • Made sexual remarks about female employees to Nettlebeck, despite Nettlebeck's protests.
  • Made graphic comments to female individuals while Nettlebeck was present, causing Nettlebeck anxiety and discomfort.

Zoom in: Nettlebeck says in the lawsuit that he reported this behavior to Marv Nyren, Cumulus' VP of Chicago operations, on six occasions, but that nothing was done.

  • After reporting the alleged harassment, Nettlebeck says Hanson retaliated by continuing the behavior and even threatening suicide if Nettlebeck reported him again.
  • Nettlebeck says he resigned last April because of the alleged retaliation.
  • Less than a month later, Hanson stepped down and moved back to Nashville.

What they're saying: Cumulus Media didn't immediately respond to Axios' request for comment. Axios couldn't reach Hanson for comment. Nyren declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing company policy.

What's ahead: A hearing is set for Feb. 15.

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