Former female execs file retaliation claims against United Way

Three former executives for United Way Worldwide say the organization fired or bullied them in retaliation for addressing sexual harassment within one of the world’s largest nonprofits.

According to their claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the women say the organization’s leadership abruptly terminated or forced them to leave after they reported misconduct.

United Way Worldwide accused of “bullying” behavior

Lisa Bowman filed an EEOC claim in March 2020 after she was let go two months earlier. The former chief marketing officer made an official complaint to the nonprofit in 2019 over a male colleague’s behavior, saying he ogled and made inappropriate comments about her body.

Bowman says after her complaint, her standing at the organization began to plummet until CEO Brian Gallagher told her in January that he no longer needed her, even though she had won a coveted marketing award in 2019.

Another former female executive, who asked HuffPost to conceal her identity, says she complained on behalf of a woman who worked for her about the same man Bowman reported. She says she began experiencing a backlash soon after, and she ultimately left United Way for another job as a result.

The third case involves the organization’s former vice president for labor participation. Ana Avendano claims she was fired after AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka complained to Gallagher over her work to stop sexual harassment within the labor workforce.

Avendano’s EEOC complaint says she had spent years uncovering sexual harassment in the network and appeared to have the full support of Gallagher and other top officials until her actions led Trumka to complain. Avendano says she was fired after being the target of misconduct complaints herself, involving her treatment of others. She believes it was in retaliation for her complaints.

Retaliation causes devastating consequences

According to the EEOC, retaliation is the No. 1 workplace discrimination complaint. If you are the target of harassment or other illegal behavior, it is advisable to work with an aggressive and experienced employment attorney who can help you prove your claim. To be successful, you must show you were engaged in a protected activity, you suffered an adverse action, and that those two factors are related.

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