Carlos Frías, a former host at WLRN in Miami, filed a complaint Tuesday alleging that he was subjected to discrimination and retaliation by South Florida Public Media Co., the parent organization of the station.
Frías filed the complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
“I have suffered harassment, discrimination and retaliation on account of my Hispanic race and Cuban ancestry,” he said in the complaint, shared with Current by his attorney, William Amlong.
Frías, who had worked for WLRN since 2022, was laid off when the station canceled Sundial, which he hosted. The show aired weekday afternoons and featured “in-depth conversations with guests who help tell the story of South Florida life and culture,” according to an archived version of the show’s page on WLRN.org.
WLRN canceled Sundial effective Feb. 2, according to a press release shared with Current by Caitie Muñoz, director of daily news and original live programming, when asked for comment about Frías’ complaint. The station replaced Sundial with an extra hour of Here & Now, according to the release.
“The change was made to focus more resources on WLRN’s award-winning newsroom, mainly boosting news stories for daily newscasts and features, along with bolstering the expansion of digital stories on WLRN.org, which has seen traffic more than double in the past year,” the release said. WLRN also plans to expand its investigative journalism team, according to the release.
The release said WLRN also laid off lead Sundial producer Leslie Ovalle Atkinson and associate producer Elisa Baena.
It was not clear how or when the release had been disseminated. “We will have another statement available for you soon,” Muñoz told Current.
Frías alleged in his complaint that in August 2023, Muñoz told Elisa Baena, a producer on the show, that Sundial was “sounding very Latino.”
Muñoz created a spreadsheet showing the ethnicity of the show’s guests in the third quarter of 2023, the complaint said. It included “only those who mentioned something about having Latino or Hispanic roots during an episode,” Frías said.
“I asked my supervisors for clarification of this ‘ethnicity’ category and Peter Maerz, VP of Radio at WLRN, responded that we had to be considerate of people’s ‘cultural comfort zones,’ which I understood to mean white people were being made uncomfortable by how diverse our show was (as is our Miami home),” Frías said in the complaint.
He added that in December, he posted on social media an email from a listener that he considered racist. A few days later, he said, VP of News Sergio Bustos “scolded me for ‘airing our dirty laundry’” and asked Frías to take down the post, which he did. But Frías said he received a reprimand in his personal file.
He went on to file a complaint with human resources. Frías met with an HR rep Jan. 22 to discuss “the discrimination my staff and I had witnessed and experienced over the past year,” he said in the EEOC complaint.
“She promised to get back to me after she digested what I had told her,” Frías said. “A week later my staff and I all were fired.”
WLRN journalist Catalina Garcia quit her job Wednesday in solidarity with Frías and the Sundial team, the Miami Herald reported. “I felt very disappointed, very disillusioned with the way management has handled the whole situation,” she told the paper.
Bustos declined to speak on the record with Current. Maerz and WLRN CEO John LaBonia have not responded to a request for comment.