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Ex-Employee Hits Art Institute of Chicago Executives with $300,000 Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Mike Riordan, Executive Director, Art Institute of Chicago

(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].

About David Ormsby

David, a public relations consultant and blogger at The Huffington Post, is an ex-Press Secretary of the Illinois Democratic Party.


5 Responses to “Ex-Employee Hits Art Institute of Chicago Executives with $300,000 Sex Discrimination Lawsuit”

  1. Not surprising one bit.

    Posted by Cam Ultoe | April 12, 2012, 10:32 AM
  2. I am totaly for Suzy and will back Suzy 110%!! I worked close with Suzy until Mike came into the dapartment where she was soon fired! And just a few months later Guess who else got fired? Me Albert Johnson that will stand all the way from the EECO to all of the other people of the Art Institute that LOVED myself and Suzy instead of the three people that still remain in Purchasing Department to this day! I thought this would be a job where I could provide for my family until I retired but I have lost everything that I had since loosing my job! I pray that Suzy gets justice because I didn’t get the chance because of no resources and no funds to take the Art Institute to court! I would Love to still work for them in a different department but the Purchasing Department ended all of that for me!

    Posted by Albert Johnson | April 18, 2012, 2:55 PM
  3. This is the tip of the iceberg. The Art Institute is a very abusive employer. Anyone who would like to write a book on the corporation behind the public facade, and could tap into the wealth of ex-employees with stories to tell, would have a best-seller that would have the public holding its nose when it passed the museum.

    Posted by Was There | April 25, 2012, 12:41 AM
  4. Not a surprise, The Art Institute is always being sued for their mistreatment of employees and students, but with their vast financial resources their team of lawyers they usually walk away clean. In fact, they are currently being sued by the US Gov for 11 Billion in Fraud. Google Fraud and EDMC the parent company of all the Art Institute.

    Posted by Skyler | April 27, 2012, 12:56 PM
  5. Former Ai Employee, and I believe I would like to participate in writing a book about my experience, inclusive of a few former colleagues that would also have vast input into this tell-all. Not woe-is-me stories, but factual stories of inequalities, racial discrimination, abuse of power, mistreatment, bad deeds going unpunished, illegal activities, false promises, undue stress, duress, unprofessionalism, fake credentials (allegedly), “rehearsals,” – etc. – Museum indeed!

    Posted by GOD DONT LIKE UGLY | April 28, 2012, 7:35 PM

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