Former curator sues Worcester Art Museum for racial discrimination, hostile work environment



An Indian American expert of South Asian and Islamic art has sued the Worcester Art Museum officials for allegedly subjecting her to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment. In her 64-page lawsuit, the petitioner has raised a number of accusations against the museum director, her supervisor, and four board members.

Rachel Parikh, who used to work as an associate curator at the museum in Massachusetts, has accused the museum director and senior staff of discrimination after resigning from the post. In a civil lawsuit filed at the Worcester County Superior Court last month, Parikh alleged that she “was mocked and ridiculed because she is a brown-skinned woman of South Asian (Indian) descent, and subjected to a hostile and offensive work environment and retaliation during her employment at the Worcester Art Museum. The malicious and relentless harassment made the work environment intolerable and resulted in Dr. Parikh’s constructive discharge.”

Parikh completed her Ph.D. in art history from Cambridge University. She specializes in South Asian and Islamic search painting, as well as arms and armor. Before joining the Worcester Art Museum, Parikh used to work as a Calderwood Curatorial Fellow in South Asian art at the Harvard Art Museums from 2016 until 2019. She has also worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of Arms and Armor and at the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Asian Art.

“In the civil lawsuit, a lawyer for Parikh detailed a slew of damning allegations against Director Matthias Waschek, as well as Parikh’s supervisor, Claire Whitner. The complaint alleges Parikh endured “racism and unwelcome and offensive behavior” on multiple occasions, including while she worked inside the museum and attended social gatherings at Waschek’s invitation, and as she sought to report the alleged incidents. The suit also names four members of the board that oversees the museum as defendants,” reported Boston radio station – WBUR.

“In May 2022, the museum hired an outside consultancy firm, LAM & Associates, to investigate Parikh’s claims of harassment and retaliation. In the firm’s final report delivered in July — a copy of which was included in Parikh’s complaint — the authors said its investigator, Laurie Margolies, could not substantiate Parikh’s claims with other colleagues but found her statements “credible.” Parikh quit two months later, saying in her notice that the museum failed to uphold its own policies,” the WBUR report stated, quoting the complaint.

In a statement, Waschek called the allegations “patently false.” The museum’s attorney, David Felper, issued a statement rebutting all the allegations. “The complaint is filled with unsupported allegations and statements taken out of context. We remain confident that the actual facts and law will clearly show that there is no merit to the claims that were filed,” he said.


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