Former co-hosts of Toronto Q107 morning man John Derringer have accused him of workplace harassment and allege station owner Corus Entertainment let the behavior go unchecked for years.
On social media and in interviews with the Star, four former co-hosts have described a pattern of combative, abusive behavior, with Derringer becoming furious during commercial breaks or in front of as many as 20 staffers and stripping female colleagues. hosts and colleagues at the popular station. The former co-hosts said they complained to station managers and HR staff to no avail.
Maureen Holloway, a former co-host of the classic rock morning show, said Corus management convinced people to put up with this behavior by paying what the staff secretly called “Derringer money” — raises and bonuses so they would keep quiet and stayed.
As of Tuesday morning, Corus Entertainment has taken Derringer and its show – Derringer in the Morning – off the air pending an investigation. Corus has hired Rachel Turnpenny of Turnpenney Milne LLP to conduct an “external investigation.”
Derringer could not be reached for comment. The Star has sent Corus and Derringer detailed questions about allegations made by the four former co-hosts. A Corus spokesperson said they are unable to comment on details due to the ongoing investigation.
The Corus spokesperson said “new information about workplace concerns” came to their attention last weekend. Those have been referred to the external investigator, said Melissa Eckersley of Corus.
“All concerns related to the employee experience are of the utmost importance to us and we are committed to listening, learning and taking appropriate action. Out of respect for the confidentiality and privacy of those involved and the formal processes underway, we will not comment on specific details,” Eckersley said.
On Tuesday, social media and at least one Toronto radio show made reference to the developing scandal that followed a video on Twitter and Facebook Saturday morning by longtime TV host Jennifer Valentyne, who said she filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
That message from Valentyne prompted current and former radio personalities to say on social media and the airwaves that allegations of abusive behavior by Derringer had been an open secret on the Toronto radio scene for years.
Valentyne co-hosted Derringer in the Morning from 2017 to 2019.
In her video, Valentyne talked about taking a “dream job” as a radio host, but she ended up working up to four hours a day in an unventilated room where other people were vaping, something she strongly objected to. Despite her complaints (she lost her mother to cancer when she was 19 and always avoided smoking), nothing was done. She said during her stay at the station that she was emotionally abused. In her video, she does not identify Derringer or Corus Entertainment, but has confirmed to the Star and other media outlets that she was referring to Derringer and Corus in her video.
Valentine says in her video:
“What would you do if a coworker yelled 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? belief that if you went to HR, they would choose him?”
Valentyne says she asked her employers for help and was told she had to sort it out herself. She eventually landed a TV job with Global News, where she would be fired in the summer of 2020.
Valentyne said the bout of abuse during her radio work got so bad that “sometimes during songs I would cry in the laundry room. I would walk into the studio just minutes before we started to avoid taking in the smoky air for another second.” inhaled than was necessary,” she said in the video. She said the incident is part of a larger issue of gender discrimination in the media, where women are judged by their appearance and age, and discouraged from speaking out.
“There are good times and there are not so good times; times you don’t talk about because as a woman you want to keep your job,” she said. “But sometimes enough is enough.”
Reflecting on the outpouring of support since she posted her video, Valentyne said many people have come forward to share their experiences. She said there was no specific reason for her to speak out at this time.
“This has been living in me for a long time and it had to come out at some point,” she wrote. ‘I can not explain. It seemed to me the right time.”
In response to questions from the Star about Valentyne’s allegations, the Corus spokesperson confirmed that she had previously filed a complaint.
“A few years ago, Ms Valentyne shared certain concerns and we took action to review. A lawsuit is also underway with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We have had mediated discussions with her, have responded to the procedure and are waiting for the next steps to be determined. We take these matters seriously and look forward to a solution,” said the Corus spokesperson.
After Valentyne posted her video, other former co-hosts expressed their support for Valentyne. Three of them interviewed The Star.
Holloway co-hosted Derringer in the Morning from 2010 to 2015. In an interview with the Star, she said she and Derringer had “great chemistry” to begin with. The show is sometimes a solo effort by Derringer, and other times he has a co-host and a weather forecaster. Holloway said she noticed shortly after her arrival as a co-host that, in her opinion, Derringer had a problem with anger management. She said it wasn’t just aimed at female co-hosts. “He treated his own two (male) accomplices just as badly.”
It was at a location job they had in London, England, that she had a flare. She did entertainment hits for other Corus radio shows across Canada (part of her job) and she said he got furious when she came back from recording one. “He yelled and scolded me in front of 20 people,” she said, noting that one of the program directors was there.
Holloway went to Q107’s general manager when they returned to Canada. “I was terrified, I wanted to tell him this had happened, but I didn’t want him to get it back because I thought I was going to be fired.”
After the complaint to the general manager nothing happened.
Two years later, she recalls an equally strong eruption. Again, she said that Derringer exploded because she recorded in another Corus studio, as part of her contract. “He got furious, said you owe everyone here an apology, he exhausted himself like a kid, and I cried, which I hate,” Holloway told the Star. Later, Derringer told Holloway that he was sorry. She complained to the program manager and said HR was involved. Holloway said she was offered an afternoon shift “and they just did it to silence me.” During her five years at Derringer, she was offered bonuses – once nearly doubling her salary – and she said she thought this was for her to keep quiet about the verbal abuse. She eventually left the station.
Holloway, like the other co-hosts the Star spoke to, said she’s used to working with tough co-workers and bosses, but Derringer was different. She and the two other former co-hosts the Star spoke to said they were told by senior staff at the station that Derringer had been sent to anger management therapy several times.
Jacqui Delaney was a co-host in 2002. She said she came from working at sports radio. “I’ve worked with some tough characters in radio,” she told the Star, but never anyone she wanted to complain about. With Derringer, she initially said they got along well. Then, one day, “he turned on me…he started yelling at me about an alleged offense I had committed.” She said Derringer got so close to her that his “spit” came on her face. She said this happened more than once and usually during a commercial break or while playing music. She complained to a manager.
Delaney eventually left broadcasting and now works for the Senate of Canada.
Delaney said she is hopeful Corus will come forward and acknowledge that it was aware of allegations over the past two decades. “If this company doesn’t come out and acknowledge that it knew, I’m going to start naming (of people she complained to Corus).”
Andrea Rooz did traffic and some co-hosting duties in the early 2000s. She said she and Derringer had good chemistry too, until one day she said Derringer got mad. The morning show features spinning music – classic rock – and fun chatter in between. Rooz said Derringer was on air one morning talking about how he had quit smoking and gave a laundry list of the benefits, the money he saved and how much better he felt. Rooz said she commented on the air, and jokingly, that Derringer “smells better.” Derringer replied (she recalls), “Well, you don’t.”
During a commercial break, Rooz said that Derringer turned angrily at her. “He yelled at me, ‘you useless bastard, nobody cares about your damn opinion, do you want to compare paychecks?’ ‘ remembers Rose. “I was a puddle, I was hysterical, I cried, I couldn’t breathe, it was hard to make the next traffic report.”
Rooz said she went to HR and told them what had happened. “HR told me we think you should apologize to him.”
She said her working hours changed during that time – she was on a split shift, meaning early in the morning, a long break in between, and then on the air in the evening. She said Corus offered her $1,000 in extra pay, but she said the service wasn’t something she wanted. Afterwards, she said that felt like ‘constructive dismissal’. She eventually left radio and now does corporate voice work.
Rooz and the other former co-hosts of the interviewed Star say they are more angry with Corus than with Derringer.
“Everyone was protecting him,” Rooz said. “It’s ridiculous that Corus management says they weren’t aware of this behavior.”
Valentyne, whose posting of the video prompted others to come forward, told the Star that her complaint to the Human Rights Commission — the first few pages of which were viewed by the Star via FaceTime — alleges she was discriminated against on the basis of gender. First filed in Fall 2020, it mentions Global News and Q107, both owned by Corus Entertainment.
Now, she says, the complaint will be investigated before the commission decides whether to go to a tribunal.
Perhaps the most shocking thing since its publication, she says, was how many women had similar experiences: “I had no idea there were so many other women who suffered so deeply in silence,” she said. As Corus now investigates, she wonders why so many people had to endure a toxic workplace before the media giant sprang into action.
JOIN THE CALL