Workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are livid about what they feel is management’s gross mishandling of a situation caused by an allegedly abusive boss.
“The all-staff meeting that Philadelphia Museum of Art director and CEO Timothy Rub convened last month was intended to assure workers that the museum, battered by allegations about misconduct by a once-prominent assistant director, would take seriously any claims of workplace harassment.
But as Rub apologized for the handling of complaints against the former assistant director, Joshua R. Helmer, some of the 200-plus employees demanded answers about the institution’s tolerance of another well-paid but controversial manager, James A. Cincotta.
After Cincotta was hired as the museum’s retail director in 2015, staffers who worked for him began reporting what they said was routinely abusive behavior. Cincotta slapped, punched, pinched, shoved, grabbed, and verbally berated workers, according to interviews with 14 current and former museum employees.
Sometimes when he lashed out, staff thought it was meant as a playful joke; other instances were unmistakably not. In 2016, the museum launched an internal investigation after reports by multiple employees — including one complaint directly to the museum president— that Cincotta slapped a 20-something gift-shop worker in the back of her head, bringing the woman to tears.
She quit that day. Cincotta kept his job for two more years.
He was let go in 2018 but routinely returned to the museum as a board member for Collab, a group that hosts exhibition previews and other events for PMA members. When staffers saw him in the building late last year, they grew so concerned for colleagues who had worked with him that they contacted security and human resources.
To some, Cincotta’s tenure at the museum and management’s response to the stream of complaints about him was more than a case of individual misconduct; it was emblematic of a culture that protected senior staff at the expense of lower-tier workers.
‘That they would allow a known abuser to participate in the museum in any way was very demoralizing and upsetting,’ said one employee, who stated that Cincotta slapped him in the face in 2017 in view of several people. He asked not to be named for fear it could hurt his future job prospects. ‘It was a clear signal to many people that they did not value workers’ rights,’ he said.”
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