Meow Wolf Denver Director Files Gender Discrimination Complaint

Meow Wolf Denver is going up in the shadow of the Colfax Viaduct.EXPAND
Meow Wolf Denver is going up in the shadow of the Colfax Viaduct.
Patricia Calhoun
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The director of community outreach for Meow Wolf Denver has filed a claim with the State of New Mexico charging that the Santa Fe-based art collective discriminates against its female and non-binary employees.

Artist/activist Zoë Williams, who identifies as gender non-binary, was hired in 2018 to work on the Denver outpost of Meow Wolf, slated to open in 2021. The complaint, filed August 6 with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions Human Rights Bureau, charges that the company subjects female and non-binary employees to stricter work standards than it does cis-men.

The complaint also accuses Meow Wolf founder and former CEO Vince Kadlubek, who stepped down last month, of discrimination, and claims that at least three other Meow Wolf employees have engaged in discriminatory conduct.

This summer, two former employees of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, both women, filed a lawsuit claiming they were subjected to discrimination and unfair pay practices, then wrongfully fired after bringing complaints to senior staff; their suit also names Kadlubek as a defendant. In response, Kadlubek told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the company has employed hundreds of people, and “there is no gender bias.”

The women had earlier filed complaints against Meow Wolf with the New Mexico Human Rights Bureau, but in May that agency issued “Orders of Non-Determination” in response. Their lawsuit, which they hoped to turn into a class-action case, is still pending; Kadlubek and other individuals have filed a motion to be removed as defendants.

Meow Wolf and Kadlubek did not respond to emails seeking comment regarding Williams's claim. Williams referred questions to attorney Holly Agajanian, who declined to comment on her client's case.

Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe has drawn visitors from around the world.
Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe has drawn visitors from around the world.
Kate Russell/Meow Wolf

Williams alleges that women and non-binary employees have been subjected to sexual harassment by male co-workers, been told not to speak in meetings because they are "too assertive," been prevented from filing sexual harassment complaints, and been given less control than “similarly situated cis-male employees," according to the complaint.

“I have been directed to change the evaluations of male employees to make them more favorable so that they can obtain raises and have been forbidden from disciplining these same employees for not completing their work,” Williams says in the complaint. “Further, I have been explicitly directed to give female employees more work than they can handle so they can be targeted for termination.”

Since raising concerns, Williams claims to have been increasingly isolated at work, prohibited from participating on committees related to diversity and inclusion, left out of communications made to similarly situated employees and prohibited from attending meetings related to discrimination. “I have also been told to ‘drop the social justice’ when I’ve attempted to manage issues of gender and race dynamics in the workplace,” as well as required to include a supervisor on every email, at meetings and on calls, Williams says in the complaint.

Established as a DIY collective in 2008, Meow Wolf has since grown to more than 400 employees, and its immersive art installation in Santa Fe, House of Eternal Return, has gained worldwide acclaim. But the company has also been accused of unethically forcing investors to sell shares of stock, and an Albuquerque attorney is currently exploring filing a class-action lawsuit against Meow Wolf.

Before Meow Wolf Denver opens, a second outpost in Las Vegas is slated to debut. Meow Wolf also has plans for projects in Phoenix and Washington, D.C. 

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