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Former Museum Attendant Talks About Why She Is Suing The San Diego Museum Of Art

The exterior of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is pictured in an undated photo.
Courtesy of SDMA
The exterior of the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park is pictured in an undated photo.

Zelina Gaytan, the former museum attendant at the San Diego Museum of Art, who publicly quit earlier this year has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the museum.

ZELINA GAYTAN, an individual, Plaintiff, vs. SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART
The legal complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court by former San Diego Museum of Art attendant, Zelina Gaytan, against the museum.
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In a legal complaint, she alleged that museum management fostered a culture that allowed sexual harassment to occur and is discriminatory against women of color employees.

Gaytan said that she and other staff members were made to feel uncomfortable at fundraising events where some inebriated guests would grope them or art pieces.

The decision to come forward and recount her experiences is taking a toll on her. She gets emotional when she recounts what transpired at those events.

“I froze because I just wasn't, you know, like you don't expect to be inappropriately touched at your job,” Gaytan said through tears. “I couldn't see their face and it was very dark because, again, this was a dance floor.”

According to the complaint, museum management did not properly handle the situation when she brought this to their attention.

“I finally told them, look, we're not a nightclub,” said Gaytan. “This is a museum and we're museum attendants.”

KPBS reached out to the San Diego Museum of Art for a response to the allegations. A spokesperson said the museum does not comment on pending litigation.

In a statement released in May, Taffin Ann Ray, President of the Board at The San Diego Museum of Art, wrote that the museum hired a third-party investigator to look into the allegations and is working towards providing DEI training.

Gaytan said she has her doubts about the efforts the museum is undertaking, but believes her formal complaint is a step towards ensuring reforms take place.

“I still think that change should come to the museum, but it has to be real change,” Gaytan said. “It has to be genuine change and it starts with accountability.”

“I froze because I just wasn't, you know, like you don't expect to be inappropriately touched at your job,” Zelina Gaytan told KPBS Midday Edition through tears. “I couldn't see their face and it was very dark because, again, this was a dance floor.”