Victory! Connecticut Museum Pays for Flagrantly Suppressing Free Speech

In May, CIR achieved an important free speech victory on behalf of Kate Riotte, an employee of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, who was fired for asking reasonable and appropriate questions about the wisdom of the Museum’s new, comprehensive efforts to focus on “racial equity” and “systemic racism.” The Museum was forced to pay a substantial monetary settlement to Riotte for her lost wages (both her back pay and front pay) as well as other compensatory damages, including for the wrongful “harm to her reputation,” caused by the Museum’s outrageous effort to punish her for completely legitimate speech.

The Museum fired Riotte in 2021 during the height of cancel culture when progressive employers across the nation were removing or punishing employees merely for expressing opinions that did not fully embrace DEI policies or questioned their legality. CIR filed suit under a Connecticut law that extends the free speech protections of the First Amendment to the Museum.

The settlement comes after more than a year of litigation, in which discovery made clear to any impartial observer that Museum officials fired Riotte solely because they disliked the questions that she was asking about the wisdom and propriety of its new “racial equity” focus.

The settlement precludes Riotte from disclosing the total amount of money she received. CIR didn’t stand in the way of her just recovery, but the public can guess why the Museum wants to keep its payments in this case secret, and that serves sufficient notice to others that there is a steep cost to suppressing free speech.