(Chicago) – April 11, 2012. Special Report: The Art Institute of Chicago may display fine art on its walls, but behind closed doors allegations are flying that top officials have displayed less than fine behavior.
A former Art Institute employee has filed a lawsuit against the institution claiming she was the victim of employment sex discrimination and that she feared for her “physical safety” from her superior.
Susan Luisi, who filed her suit in federal district court on Monday, April 10 and who had served previously as a director of purchasing at the Art Institute, leveled her employment discrimination changes against Art Institute CFO Eric Anyah and the man brought in by Anyah to head up the purchasing department, Mike Riordan, the organization’s current Executive Director.
In her court filing, Luisi, who began employment at the organization in 2003, claimed that she was bypassed for the top purchasing job because she was a woman and that her problems accelerated with Riordan’s arrival.
“Upon Mr. Riordon’s arrival, Plaintiff was subject to less-favorable treatment at Defendant, compared to her male counterparts, including, but not limited to; untrue and harsh criticism, without foundation, lack of support from male members of upper management…,” the complaint states.
The suit describes an ugly confrontation between Luisi and Riordan in the Art Institute building on May 12, 2011 as an “unlawful mistreatment”.
The complaint states, “…Mike Riordan brought Plaintiff into a conference room, closed the door and would not allow Plaintiff to leave, while verbally berating her for approximately one hour. During the berating, Mr. Riordon told Plaintiff that if she complained, no one would believe her word over his. At various times, Plaintiff was scared for her physical safety.”
Luisi suit also claims that she brought the encounter with Riordan to the attention of the Art Institute’s corporate treasurer, Margaret Annet, but that her complaint was allegedly stifled to protect CFO Anyah from embarrassment.
“Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff spoke about the May 12, 2011 incident to Margaret Annett and Ms. Arnett indicated that Mr. Anyah had a great deal riding on Riordon and would not be embarrassed in front of the Board of Trustees,” the suit reads.
Luisi, who was fired on June 3, 2011, is seeking back pay and $300,000 in punitive damages.
The case is being heard by Judge Edmond Chang.
An email request to Art Institute’s press department for comment on the lawsuit has gone unanswered.
The suit will be a nasty blow to the Art Institute’s refined image that it projects beyond its walls.
Send comments to David Ormsby at [email protected].