Aspen Art Museum sued over employee termination

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

A former assistant registrar at the Aspen Art Museum sued the nonprofit organization Monday on allegations that she was abruptly fired with no reason and despite a solid performance review.

Beatriz Palacios’ suit was filed in Pitkin County District Court by Aspen attorney Peter Thomas, who could not be reached for immediate comment. The breach-of-contract suit demands a jury trial.

Jeff Murcko, the museum’s communications director, said the museum would be making no comment. He added that Heidi Zuckerman, who is the museum’s executive director, CEO and curator, was traveling and not available to discuss the suit.

Palacios’ suit contends she agreed to a two-year term as the museum’s assistant registrar in May 2013. Palacios, who now resides in Virginia, relocated from out of state to take the job, which included an annual base salary of $53,000 and such benefits as rental housing, health and life insurance, an annual recreation allowance and participation in a corporate retirement plan, the suit says.

Palacio was a “model employee,” and in her only written performance review, she was said to meet expectations and had “shown a good ability to adapt to our fast-paced environment and handle responsibilities assigned to her,” the suit claims the museum said.

But on Aug. 15, Zuckerman “abruptly and immediately terminated Ms. Palacios without any advance notice, in violation of both the two-year contract of employment and (Aspen Art Museum’s) own employee handbook,” the suit alleges. Zuckerman also ordered Palacios to immediately vacate her condominium, the suit says.

Palacios’ dismissal came the same month the new 33,000-square-foot Aspen Art Museum opened in August.

“Left with neither a job nor a home, Ms. Palacios was forced to move away from Aspen to seek alternate housing and employment elsewhere,” the suit says.

The suit adds that the termination could pose “the real risk of stigma” for Palacios on her career path.


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