After investigation, Burlington artwork gallery admits missteps however denies discrimination

Artist Misoo Bang at her studio in Shelburne on March 31, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Months after dealing with allegations of racism, a outstanding Burlington artwork gallery has apologized for conduct by a former supervisor that it says fell in need of the group’s objectives for office inclusion. 

The apology from Frog Hollow Vermont Craft Gallery got here after an impartial investigator discovered that Misoo Bang — an artist and former worker who accused the gallery of discriminating towards her in a December Instagram publish — skilled remedy “​​inconsistent with Frog Hollow’s commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment,” stated Carol MacDonald, president of the group’s board. 

But whereas the investigator substantiated a few of Bang’s claims towards Rachel Teachout — the previous supervisor — the conduct didn’t meet the edge of discrimination below the regulation, stated Beth Danon, a lawyer for Frog Hollow. 

Danon stated the report didn’t discover proof that the supervisor harassed Bang or took actions that adversely affected her employment, resembling demoting or firing her. 

“What we’re saying is, ‘Yeah, some of these comments were not a good thing. But it didn’t rise to the level of harassment or discrimination,’” Danon instructed VTDigger.

Danon outlined the authorized threshold of harassment as conduct “so severe or pervasive that it’s seen by a reasonable person as causing a workplace that is hostile or abusive.”

To assist the argument that Teachout’s alleged conduct was not harassment, Danon pointed to an announcement by Bang in Seven Days, the place Bang stated she believed Teachout supposed for the feedback to be a joke. 

“Sometimes joking is fine, and sometimes joking hurts feelings,” Danon stated. “You just have to be careful.”

Frog Hollow commissioned the investigation into Bang’s claims after her grievances turned public on social media. Bang had beforehand corresponded with the group’s board members for months, asking them to implement variety and inclusion coaching. 

The report produced by the impartial investigator relied on interviews with 15 present and former Frog Hollow staff, artists and board members, in keeping with MacDonald, the board president. The group can’t launch it publicly as a result of the testimony was gathered confidentially, Danon stated.

In a Facebook publish final week, Frog Hollow republished an apology MacDonald despatched to Bang.

“On behalf of Frog Hollow, I am sorry — and disappointed — about your experience at Frog Hollow and assure you that Frog Hollow is committed to supporting a diverse, inclusive and equitable work environment in which no one should feel unsafe, unwelcome, or degraded,” MacDonald wrote within the March 3 publish. 

According to the message, the group is updating its insurance policies to make clear how employees can air grievances to senior administration, and instituting “diversity, inclusion and discrimination” coaching for workers.

MacDonald additionally stated that Teachout, the previous supervisor, now not works on the Church Street store. 

Danon, the lawyer, didn’t make clear whether or not Teachout had left or was fired. The former supervisor took a trip in January and didn’t return to the group, Danon stated.

The investigator’s report was not accomplished till mid-February, Danon instructed VTDigger, although the lawyer who labored on it was in communication with Danon about her findings all through the method.  

A lawyer for Teachout, Bernie Lambek, instructed VTDigger that — whereas Teachout won’t return to working at Frog Hollow — “it’s an open question legally whether she’s still an employee on leave, or whether she’s not.” The two events try to barter a settlement over whether or not Frog Hollow owes Teachout any extra money, he stated. 

Bang, who’s Korean, stated she was the goal of quite a few racist feedback by Teachout, spurring her to give up her affiliate supervisor place on the gallery.

In her Instagram publish, Bang — who’s now an artwork educator — described a number of incidents the place Teachout linked her to Asian stereotypes, together with one the place Teachout allegedly instructed Bang that she dressed up as a pregnant “Chinese slut” for Halloween and the supervisor’s boyfriend as a U.S. soldier. 

On one other event, Bang stated, Teachout allegedly instructed Bang that her “exotic looks” helped increase the gallery’s gross sales. 

Bang didn’t reply to a request by VTDigger to remark for this story. 

Lambek, Teachout’s lawyer, denied all of Bang’s claims in regards to the former supervisor. He additionally stated — regardless of not accessing the investigator’s report — that it couldn’t substantiate any of the claims Bang made about Teachout on social media.

Danon, nonetheless, challenged Lambek’s assertion, and stated that a few of Bang’s allegations had been discovered credible. She declined to specify which claims had been substantiated. 

The Burlington Free Press reported in January that the Vermont Attorney General’s Office deliberate to launch its personal investigation into Bang’s discrimination claims. 

Danon stated she was not conscious of any state-run investigation, nor had any present Frog Hollow worker been contacted by a state investigator. 

Correction: A earlier model of this story misspelled Beth Danon’s surname.

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