Remai Modern. Photo: dvs/Flickr.

Judge Orders Removal of Former Remai Modern Director from Workplace Harassment Complaint

A judge has ruled that the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission must drop Gregory Burke, the former director and CEO of Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada, from a complaint following a slow-moving investigation into workplace harassment allegations, CBC reports. Criticizing the length of the thirty-one-month investigation, Justice Brenda Hildebrandt said it caused “significant prejudice” to Burke.

Filed in October 2015 by a former female colleague who worked with Burke at Mendel Art Gallery—the institution that eventually rebranded as the Remai Modern Art Museum—the complaint, which accused Burke of bullying her on the basis of her gender between March 2013 and October 2014, did not move forward until May 2017. The duration of the inquiry prompted Burke to seek a dismissal of the complaint, which, according to his lawyer, resulted in a period of unemployment.

Burke had previously planned on accepting a directorship at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in New Zealand, but he withdrew his application last April when news of the complaint emerged in the media. Hildebrandt called the “unreasonable delay” in investigating the plaintiff’s claims an abuse of the process. “The issues do not appear particularly complex, nor does an alleged need to be thorough explain the sluggish approach to arranging and conducting interviews,” she said. The judge also chastised the commission for only notifying the former director on August 12, 2019, that the focus of the investigation was shifting to determining whether there was a pattern of discrimination.

While the judge conceded that the work of the commission is important, she said that the system “is not functioning properly.” In response to the judge’s decision, Burke’s attorney, Jay Watson, said: “We understand . . . the whole case can’t be dismissed. But we’re very pleased that Mr. Burke has been removed from it.” He added: “We’re hoping now that when prospective employers read the decision, this matter will no longer be a barrier to him finding a job in the industry that he’s trained and very good at.” The gallery and museum are the remaining defendants in the case.