Meet Sven Sundgaard, the former weatherman of KARE 11 TV in Minnesota. Sundgaard has accused his former employer of creating a homophobic, hostile work environment against him, and now claims that the network fired him for being gay.
Sundgaard has cited several instances to back up his claim. In court filings, he claimed a station manager chastised him in 2007 after he landed the cover of Lavender, an LGBTQ-oriented magazine that circulates in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He further claims the station reprimanded him for making a “size does matter” joke when talking about the number of lakes in Minnesota, and that the station tried to block him from speaking at a convention of LGBTQ journalists. Sundgaard has also cited religious discrimination and says that a co-worker asked him probing questions about his beliefs in Jesus following conversion to Judaism in 2010.
The Star Tribune reports that Sundgaard finally lost his job last May, ostensibly “due to continued violations of KARE 11’s news ethics and other policies.” His dismissal came just after he reposted a comment by Minneapolis Rabbi Michael Adam Latz on social media, in which Latz labeled gun-toting, anti-mask protesters as “white nationalist Nazi sympathizer gun fetishist miscreants.” Sundgaard claims he received homophobic and anti-Semitic backlash over the comment, which he later deleted. The network fired him the next day.
“I’ve been overwhelmed and forever grateful for the outpouring of support I have received over the last year,” Sundgaard said in a statement last week, just after filing suit. “I hope to continue to receive your support as I embark upon this difficult journey that will highlight the unfair treatment to which I was subjected. While a lawsuit is not ideal for anyone, I believe it is important to take action to prevent what happened to me from happening to others. I do this also, for the countless young people who have thanked me for being an openly gay man, making it easier for them to be true to themselves. My late mom always taught me to stick up for myself.”
KARE 11, and its parent company TENGA, have denied Sundgaard’s allegations.
“One of our core values as a station is inclusion,” a spokesperson for KARE said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We are committed to maintaining a respectful workplace free from all forms of discrimination and harassment.”
Sundgaard is suing $320,000 including back pay and punitive damages.