A Former Employee Is Suing Art Dealer Barbara Gladstone for Allegedly Forcing Her Out of a Job and Trying to Ruin Her Career

Laura Higgins says she was forced out of the "toxic" environment after raising labor concerns.

Barbara Gladstone. Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage. Image courtesy Getty Images.
Barbara Gladstone. Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage. Image courtesy Getty Images.

A startling lawsuit filed in a New York court accuses art dealer Barbara Gladstone and her senior partner, Max Falkenstein, of conspiring to ruin a former employee’s career, including a job prospect with painter George Condo, after she raised red flags about unlawful compensation and sexual discrimination at the gallery.

Laura Higgins, a gallery manager at Gladstone in New York from 2016 to 2021, says she was “yelled at, disparaged” and physically attacked by Barbara Gladstone, who threw an employee handbook at Higgins.

“Falkenstein joined in the retaliation by conjuring fake criticisms” to get Higgins to quit, which she did in July 2021.

In the legal filing, Higgins says the abusive behavior began after she noticed that Stacy Tunis, the gallery’s financial director, had manipulated the payroll system so that eligible employees wouldn’t receive legally mandated overtime pay.

Higgins also claims that employees were instructed not to indicate if they had worked for more than 40 hours, even if they were eligible.

When she raised questions about “inconsistencies and inaccuracies” in pay, she was met with wanton hostility. Higgins says Gladstone and Falkenstein became “retaliatory” and escalated “an already unpleasant workplace to toxic.”

In a statement to Artnet News, a Gladstone gallery spokesperson said “the evidence will prove that Ms. Higgins’ claims lack merit, which we intend to defend against forcefully.”

Higgins says that after she left the job, she interviewed for, and was offered a job by George Condo. But when the gallery sent him a false performance review, he rescinded the offer he made to Higgins 10 days before. 

“Condo and Gladstone are very good friends and colleagues,” the lawsuit says. “In fact, Gladstone gave Condo his first major shows and successes in the New York art world in the 1980s.”

Asked for comment, Condo told Artnet News: “We interviewed Laura as well as a number of other candidates for the position, and ultimately decided upon another applicant.”

Higgins is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus compensation for “severe mental anguish and emotional distress.” She also asks the court to formally recognize the gallery’s conduct.

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