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Natural History Museum Chief Harassed HIV-Positive Employee, Suit Says

By Nicole Levy | April 26, 2017 4:21pm
 The American Museum of Natural History.
The American Museum of Natural History.
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Flickr/Charley Lhasa

UPPER WEST SIDE — A gay, HIV-positive employee of the American Museum of Natural History was harassed by his supervisor over his sexual orientation and health status until he resigned, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court.

Peter Bryan Torres, an IT manager who started working for the museum in 2007, suffered from a discriminatory campaign at the hands of museum CIO Juan Montes after the latter learned about his HIV-positive status last year, he claims in the suit filed on April 20. 

Torres says the harassment began after he was hospitalized on May 23 for HIV-related issues and returned two days later to update his boss about his condition.

Montes was outraged he hadn't known about Torres' medical issues before, insisting the museum should have revealed it when they hired him, the suit claims.

The CIO "humiliated, ostracized and harassed [Torres] on a daily basis" by reassigning his tasks to less-experienced co-workers, refusing to speak to him and avoiding any physical contact.

Montes also made it difficult for Torres to use the medical accommodations the museum had given him to keep flexible hours in 2012.

The museum administrator also forbade Torres from eating lunch at his desk on days he had a doctor's appointment, claimed Torres fudged work-travel plans as an excuse to give him a poor performance review, and clung exaggeratedly to the wall while speaking to him, the suit claims.

While Torres filed a complaint with the museum's human resources department in 2016, HR did not investigate until a year later, after he had hired a lawyer, according to the suit. 

He left work after suffering a seizure due to the stress of the discrimination, causing him to fall and tear ligaments in his knee, the suit says.

He eventually received an email from the museum telling Torres he would stop being paid if he didn't immediately return to work. Rather than "return to the abusive and unabated hostile work environment," Torres chose to resign, the charge says. 

He is suing both Montes and the museum for damages.

The museum said it does not comment on pending litigation, a spokesman said. 

This story was first reported by Eyewitness News, ABC 7.

Torres v. American Museum of Natural History by zackford on Scribd