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Former San Diego Museum of Art employee sues over alleged sexual harassment

Zelina Gaytan resigned due to what she alleges was a failure on the museum's part to protect its employees and a dismissive attitude toward employee concerns.
Credit: KFMB

SAN DIEGO — A former San Diego Museum of Art employee has filed a lawsuit alleging the museum fostered an environment that allowed for pervasive sexual harassment towards female employees and racial discrimination against employees of color.

Zelina Gaytan, who worked as a museum attendant since mid-2017, resigned earlier this year due to what she alleges was a failure on the museum's part to protect its employees and a dismissive attitude toward employee concerns.

According to her lawsuit filed Friday in San Diego Superior Court, female employees were sexually harassed by one of the museum's male employees and regularly sexually harassed, groped, or otherwise inappropriately touched by intoxicated guests at museum events.

Gaytan also alleged she reported to management that she and other employees were "subjected to race discrimination and racist comments by both docents and guests," but her concerns were disregarded.

According to Gaytan, the museum did not initiate an investigation into the allegations until her grievances were made public through an online petition she posted in April calling for changes to museum policies and an investigation into how employees of color are treated.

Gaytan's petition, which has received nearly 1,000 signatures since it was posted, also called for San Diegans to boycott the museum until it addressed the issues.

Museum representatives declined to comment, citing the institution's policy against commenting on pending litigation.

In May, the president of the museum's board of trustees, Taffin Ann Ray, issued a statement in which she wrote that the museum had enlisted "experienced, independent, third-party workplace investigators to investigate these claims further."

She also said the museum would be "committed to consistently evaluating" its special event policies and was working with consultants to "establish workshops with staff to ensure a culture of empathy and set a blueprint for how we can better listen to one another and increase opportunities for dialogue."