Former El Museo Director’s Discrimination Suit Dismissed


A complaint of gender discrimination against New York’s El Museo del Barrio, filed in February by former director Margarita Aguilar, has been dismissed by the New York State Division of Human Rights. Aguilar was hired in September 2011 and dismissed in February 2013.

“There is no probable cause to believe that the [museum] has engaged in or is engaging in the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of,” says a Division of Human Rights determination from Sept. 12 that was supplied to A.i.A. by the museum’s press representative on Tuesday.

“We agree with the Division of Human Rights’ decision to dismiss the complaint outright,” board chairman Tony Bechara said in a statement via the press representative. “We are happy to put this chapter behind us.”

Aguilar, for her part, plans to keep up the fight. “We are looking forward to overturning this determination and feel confident,” she told A.i.A. via e-mail on Tuesday.

The decision states that an investigation included a review of evidence from both parties, which sometimes diverges. Aguilar claims that Bechara told her that she was “acting like a hysterical woman.” The decision says that Bechara told her “you are acting hysterically.”

Yaz Hernandez, another board member, supposedly told Aguilar to “pluck her eyebrows, lose weight and wear more expensive clothing.”

“These comments, if made, do not rise to the level of severity or pervasiveness so as to constitute a hostile work place,” the decision concludes. It added that the investigation had found this was not necessarily gender discrimination in the first place: “In fact, the investigation revealed comments about dress have been made to other Directors, male and female.”

Aguilar maintains that she was dismissed because of her complaints about discrimination, but the decision concludes that there is no evidence that she filed any such internal complaint.

The museum tells the Division that, when Bechara informed Aguilar that “her employment was untenable,” Aguilar “stopped reporting to work every day.” When the museum board scheduled a meeting to allow her to present her case, she “did not attend,” the decision says.