A gay Minnesota meteorologist is suing his former employer, claiming discrimination based on his sexual orientation and Jewish identity.
Sven Sundgaard worked as a meteorologist for KARE 11 news, an NBC affiliate in Minneapolis, for 14 years. He was ostensibly fired last year after he criticized pro-Trump protesters in his state. Now, Metro Weekly reports that Sundgaard is suing his former employer, alleging that he was discriminated against because he is gay and Jewish.
In his lawsuit, Sundgaard also alleges defamation, a hostile work environment, and a violation of Minnesota's Human Rights Act. He's seeing at least $320,000 in back pay, and a further $25,000 in damages.
In May of last year, armed protesters were marching on the home of Democratic governor Tim Waltz demanding he lift the state's stay at home order. Sundgaard shared a post on his Facebook that called the protestors "white nationalist Nazi sympathizer gun fetishist miscreants." A far-right news outlet reported on Sundgaard's post, and former Republican congressman Jason Lewis shared it. Sundgaard took down the post but was still fired.
"Due to continued violations of KARE11's news ethics and other policies, we have made the decision to part ways with Sven Sundgaard," KARE 11 wrote on Facebook. "We hope you continue to turn to KARE 11 for your news, traffic, weather and more."
Sundgaard is claiming most of those violations were actually his employer discriminating against him. He was hired in 2006, and started to come out to coworkers in 2007. That year, he appeared on the cover of the local LGBTQ magazine Lavender, which caused his boss, Tim Lindner, news director for the station to become "irate" and demand "what are people going to think?" Sundgaard says he filed a complaint with human resources but heard nothing back.
Other incidents include being refused time off to spend with his mother and to go to the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association conference where he was scheduled to speak. In 2011, he claims Lindner sent him a "hostile email" and copied many of his coworkers on it. Additionally, he was kept under close watch by his employer, who wanted to "know his whereabouts at all times."
Sundgaard also says he was made to feel uncomfortable after he converted to Judaism in 2010. At the time, he says former news director Jane Helmke asked him if he "still believed Jesus was the messiah," leaving him feeling invaded and alienated.
"While a lawsuit is not ideal for anyone," Sundgaard said, "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 denied all the allegations in a statement. "One of our core values as a station is inclusion," it said. "We are committed to maintaining a respectful workplace free from all forms of discrimination and harassment."