On March 8, 2023, the Center for Individual Rights filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut on behalf of Kate Riotte, a former curatorial administrator at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. The museum fired Riotte solely because she responded to an email requesting comments on a proposed museum-wide equity policy by asking for more information about why the policy was necessary for the museum’s growth and how it would be feasible.
Riotte faced instant backlash for her reply email. One of the museum’s employees suggested she was “a proponent for the allowing the continuation of oppression.” Later, two of the museum’s senior staff called Riotte to inquire about her motivation for sending the email. They told her it was her job to educate herself about white supremacy, “allyship,” and other similar concepts that were integral to the new policy. Riotte made an effort to study the issue so that she could better comply with the museum’s new demands. Nevertheless, within a week of the call, the museum fired her.
CIR filed suit under a Connecticut law that protects the right to free speech for private employees. The complaint alleges that the museum violated Riotte’s right to free speech by retaliating against her for expressing views and asking questions about issues of public concern that were raised by the museum’s policies.