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Former Vice Dean Sues AFI for Wrongful Termination

A former vice dean at the AFI Conservatory has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired for raising concerns about ex-dean Jan Schuette.

Phil Linson, who was head of the editing discipline, was fired in June 2016. Linson was one of 30 faculty members who wrote a letter complaining about Schuette’s leadership in October of 2015. The faculty members alleged that Schuette ran the school through “fear, intimidation, and bullying,” and made numerous offensive and insensitive remarks.

The conflict led the AFI faculty to form a union. Linson’s termination was one of the factors that prompted the union to call for Schuette to be fired last fall. Schuette’s contract was not renewed this spring, and Richard Gladstein will take the helm.

In the lawsuit, Linson alleges that AFI CEO Bob Gazzale hired Schuette from the German Film and Television Academy because he wanted an outsider who would be “beholden and loyal” to him.

“Schuette quickly demonstrated that he did not have the qualifications and skills to effectively lead and perform his job duties,” the suit alleges. “To overcome his performance shortcomings, Schuette took the approach of, ‘I am the Dean. I can do whatever I want.'”

The suit alleges that Schuette repeatedly made “homophobic” remarks, such as, “I don’t believe in awards and juries because I’ve seen gay juries just give the award to the gay film.” Schuette also scheduled department head meetings on Jewish holidays, and suggested a student would not need a scholarship because he was Jewish, the suit alleges.

The suit contends that Gazzale and Schuette sought to quell the complaints by making an example of Linson, who was seen as a leader of the faculty group. In December of 2015, Linson’s position as vice dean of production and post-production was eliminated, though he remained the head of the editing faculty.

That spring, the faculty voted to organize a union, and AFI sought to calm the situation by ordering an outside investigation. However, shortly after the commencement that summer, Linson was let go. The suit alleges that AFI sought to destroy Linson’s reputation and make him unemployable.

The suit accuses AFI of violating state and federal employment laws, of making a false promise, and of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

“AFI has not received any formal notice of litigation,” the conservatory said in response. “Should we receive such notice, we will respond appropriately.”

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