Virginia Rep, ousted co-founder settle age discrimination suit

virginia rep exterior downtown scaled

Virginia Repertory Theatre’s November Theatre at 114 W. Broad St. (BizSense file)

The curtain has fallen on a legal drama between Phil Whiteway and the theater he co-founded.

Whiteway has settled a lawsuit he filed against Virginia Repertory Theatre that alleged he was fired last year from the organization because of his age.

Both parties declined to comment on the settlement when reached Wednesday.

Whiteway, who was ousted from the performing arts nonprofit in August at the age of 71, alleged in the December lawsuit that he experienced age-based discrimination and retaliatory actions taken against him for his refusal to retire voluntarily.

Virginia Rep denied the accusations.

The former managing director of the organization had sought reinstatement as well as lost pay and other compensation as part of his federal court filing. Whiteway told BizSense on Wednesday that he wasn’t currently employed or otherwise involved at Virginia Rep in any capacity.

Attorneys for the two parties made a joint filing in early May to notify the court that a settlement had been reached.

7.8R Virginia Rep mug

Phil Whiteway

Whiteway’s initial complaint claimed that Virginia Rep “actively pressed” him in 2021 to set a retirement date but that he wasn’t ready to retire and therefore resisted setting a date.

The suit stated that the following year a succession planning effort was initiated at Virginia Rep, which Whiteway framed as a project specifically created to remove him from the organization. Whiteway’s complaint said that his duties were changed in late 2022 and that the theater’s artistic directors were told to report to then-board chair Laura Lee Chandler.

He also claimed that an investigation initiated by Virginia Rep into “alleged workplace environment concerns” against Whiteway was an attempt to retaliate against him over his refusal to retire.

Whiteway was fired from Virginia Rep in August after a Zoom meeting with board member Vivian White, during which she allegedly delivered an ultimatum to Whiteway to either leave the organization or be forced out.

A few days after that, on Aug. 16, Virginia Rep issued a brief announcement that stated Whiteway and the organization had “parted ways.” The release didn’t elaborate on the circumstances of Whiteway’s departure.

In the wake of his ouster, Whiteway and his fellow Virginia Rep co-founder Bruce Miller, who also has left the theater group, formed a consulting firm that caters to nonprofit entities called Whiteway Miller & Associates. The firm advises nonprofits on how to increase their donor base, community engagement and other aspects of operation.

Before his exit from Virginia Rep, Whiteway had been involved in the region’s performing arts scene for decades. He and Miller founded Theatre IV in 1975 before merging their group with Barksdale Theatre to create Virginia Rep in 2012.

Virginia Rep runs the November Theatre at 114 W. Broad St. in Richmond and hosts performances at Hanover Tavern in Hanover County. In 2022, Virginia Rep acquired the Scottish Rite Temple on Hermitage Road, which the organization calls the Virginia Rep Center for Arts and Education.

virginia rep exterior downtown scaled

Virginia Repertory Theatre’s November Theatre at 114 W. Broad St. (BizSense file)

The curtain has fallen on a legal drama between Phil Whiteway and the theater he co-founded.

Whiteway has settled a lawsuit he filed against Virginia Repertory Theatre that alleged he was fired last year from the organization because of his age.

Both parties declined to comment on the settlement when reached Wednesday.

Whiteway, who was ousted from the performing arts nonprofit in August at the age of 71, alleged in the December lawsuit that he experienced age-based discrimination and retaliatory actions taken against him for his refusal to retire voluntarily.

Virginia Rep denied the accusations.

The former managing director of the organization had sought reinstatement as well as lost pay and other compensation as part of his federal court filing. Whiteway told BizSense on Wednesday that he wasn’t currently employed or otherwise involved at Virginia Rep in any capacity.

Attorneys for the two parties made a joint filing in early May to notify the court that a settlement had been reached.

7.8R Virginia Rep mug

Phil Whiteway

Whiteway’s initial complaint claimed that Virginia Rep “actively pressed” him in 2021 to set a retirement date but that he wasn’t ready to retire and therefore resisted setting a date.

The suit stated that the following year a succession planning effort was initiated at Virginia Rep, which Whiteway framed as a project specifically created to remove him from the organization. Whiteway’s complaint said that his duties were changed in late 2022 and that the theater’s artistic directors were told to report to then-board chair Laura Lee Chandler.

He also claimed that an investigation initiated by Virginia Rep into “alleged workplace environment concerns” against Whiteway was an attempt to retaliate against him over his refusal to retire.

Whiteway was fired from Virginia Rep in August after a Zoom meeting with board member Vivian White, during which she allegedly delivered an ultimatum to Whiteway to either leave the organization or be forced out.

A few days after that, on Aug. 16, Virginia Rep issued a brief announcement that stated Whiteway and the organization had “parted ways.” The release didn’t elaborate on the circumstances of Whiteway’s departure.

In the wake of his ouster, Whiteway and his fellow Virginia Rep co-founder Bruce Miller, who also has left the theater group, formed a consulting firm that caters to nonprofit entities called Whiteway Miller & Associates. The firm advises nonprofits on how to increase their donor base, community engagement and other aspects of operation.

Before his exit from Virginia Rep, Whiteway had been involved in the region’s performing arts scene for decades. He and Miller founded Theatre IV in 1975 before merging their group with Barksdale Theatre to create Virginia Rep in 2012.

Virginia Rep runs the November Theatre at 114 W. Broad St. in Richmond and hosts performances at Hanover Tavern in Hanover County. In 2022, Virginia Rep acquired the Scottish Rite Temple on Hermitage Road, which the organization calls the Virginia Rep Center for Arts and Education.

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