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Former HRC President Alphonso David Sues Over Discrimination

Alfonso David
Via Getty Images

In his lawsuit, David claims he was fired because he is Black. The Human Rights Campaign says the lawsuit is "riddled with untruths."


The former president of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David, announced on Thursday that he had filed a lawsuit against his former employer over his termination last September after he was found to have advised then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on its response to sexual harassment allegations.

David, a Black civil rights lawyer, said in the suit that HRC had a "racist, biased culture."

In a tweet sharing the lawsuit, David wrote, "Today, I am filing a lawsuit for the millions of Black and Brown people who face discrimination every day but fear retaliation or lack the resources to challenge it."

In the suit, he claims that HRC board members told him he had been paid less at the beginning because he was Black, and that a board member urged him to stop mentioning his race in public comments -- including removing the fact that David was HRC's first Black president.

Further, David alleges that one HRC executive told him that a focus on racial justice would put off some donors, including white gay men. That same executive also complained about a Black employee who met with a Black-owned consulting firm without a white person there. According to the suit, the executive said the firm might do worse work if they were working for other Black people.

"HRC underpaid David, and then terminated him, because he is Black," the complaint states.

The suit will add to frustrations some have had over the organization and previous claims of workplace racial discrimination.

"I had to challenge a system and a pattern of bias that has not only affected me, but it has affected way too many Black and Brown people," David told The Washington Post. "Discrimination and bias are rife within HRC. And I'm just the latest person to be affected."

He's seeking punitive and compensatory dames from HRC and to be reinstated, according to the suit.

"I'm hoping that we peel back the onion and find some sunlight," David said. "I'm hoping that we recognize that institutions that purported to represent all members of our community actually have to do just that."

In a statement sent to The Advocate, HRC said that the organization had renewed David's contract prior to learning of his connections to the Cuomo controversy.

"We are disappointed that Alphonso David has chosen to take retaliatory action against the Human Rights Campaign for his termination which resulted from his own actions," Interim HRC President Joni Madison said. "Mr. David's complaint is riddled with untruths. We are confident through the legal process that it will be apparent that Mr. David's termination was based on clear violations of his contract and HRC's mission, and as president of HRC, he was treated fairly and equally.

"Notably, some of the individuals he accuses of discriminatory behavior are people of color and champions of racial equity and inclusion who provided support and guidance as Mr. David led the organization. Also, the Executive Committees, constituted of independent directors, were comprised of seven individuals, five of whom are Black."

Madison added that the revelation from the report that showed David's involvement with Cuomo was "painful" as many LGBTQ+ people are also survivors of assault and harassment.

"Moving forward, we will not be distracted and will remain focused on our critical work to bring full equality and liberation of LGBTQ+ people everywhere, especially for the most marginalized people in our community," Madison said.

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