It wasn’t long after Michael Glickman was hired as president and chief executive officer of the Museum of Jewish Heritage that Mohad Athar, the museum’s chief financial officer, came to the conclusion that Glickman was out to get him. The reason, Athar alleges in a federal civil rights lawsuit, is because he is a Muslim and of Pakistani heritage.
Just one day after Glickman started working at the museum on Sept. 1, 2016, he hired Elaine Valby for the newly created position of chief of staff. The two had worked together at the Center for Jewish History, where for nine years she was director of finance and administration.
“It became clear to Mr. Athar that Glickman sought to replace him with Valby because of their similar work experience,” according to the suit filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
To make that happen, the suit said, “Glickman constructed false performance reviews against Mr. Athar … [and] repeatedly cursed at Mr. Athar and admonished him more harshly than other employees who were not Pakistani or Muslim.”
A spokesperson for the museum said Glickman would not comment on the allegations and released a statement saying the museum has “a zero tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind. This lawsuit has absolutely no merit and we intend to defend against it vigorously.”
Apparently realizing that he was about to be fired and would have to seek redress in the courts, Athar in November 2016 began recording conversations he had with fellow employees about Glickman’s actions. The suit includes direct quotes from those conversations. Among them was a Nov. 17 conversation with Anthony Treglia, an accounts payable accountant, who told Athar he believed Glickman had targeted him because of his skin color.
“The board should question the leadership of [Glickman] because he is only hiring his friends and that [Glickman] is not treating you like a business person or colleague. … [Glickman] will make this a white museum,” Treglia is reported to have said.
Sometime later, Treglia was recorded saying, “There is nothing wrong with your work, but [Glickman] will find something wrong.”
And former Chief Development Officer Linda Zisk is quoted as telling Athar, “I am 100 percent sure that [Glickman] wants to replace you with Elaine Valby. It is a scheme. … [Glickman] is trying to set you up.”
It is alleged also in the suit that Glickman “cursed and mumbled religious and racial slurs” at Athar, falsely claimed that he did not comprehend how to process payroll despite Athar’s 21 years of experience in that position and falsely claimed that Athar’s “skillset was unable to meet the needs of the museum.” Athar had been the museum’s CFO for the prior 10 years, during which he received “positive performance reviews,” the complaint says.
The complaint noted also that within the first month and a half of his hiring, Glickman had hired three new employees, “all of whom were Caucasian.”
“Defendants’ extreme and outrageous conduct was done intentionally or recklessly to cause severe emotional distress to Mr. Athar,” the suit said. “Defendants’ conduct was so extreme and outrageous that it transcended the bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and intolerable in a civilized society.”
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The suit, which asks for an unspecified amount of damages, alleges that Glickman and the museum discriminated against Athar based upon his race, religion and national origin and that they retaliated against him in violation of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law.