Feb 3, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Former HRC president alleges racial discrimination in his firing

Alphonso David

Alphonso David. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The former president of the Human Rights Campaign on Thursday sued the organization, alleging that racial discrimination led to his firing after he helped former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) respond to sexual harassment allegations.

Driving the news: Alphonso David in court filings alleged that HRC has a "racist, biased culture." His lawyers also wrote that "HRC underpaid David, and then terminated him, because he is Black."

  • The court filings claim that HRC board members told David, who was the organization's first Black president, to stop mentioning his race in public speeches, and that he was told by the board that he was initially paid less because of his race.
  • The suit also alleges that David received pushback from a senior executive after he caused the organization to issue a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The executive allegedly expressed concern about "alienating" white donors, specifically "white gay men."

The other side: "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," HRC interim president Joni Madison said in a statement.

  • "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," Madison said.

Catch up quick: The HRC hired an independent law firm to investigate David after a report from investigators appointed by New York Attorney General Letitia James' office implicated him in allegations that Cuomo tried to discredit his accusers.

  • David was Cuomo's chief counsel before joining the HRC in 2019.
  • The New York attorney general's office report found that David sent one of Cuomo's accusers' confidential personnel files to an adviser for the then-governor.
  • Some of these details were released to reporters after the accuser made her allegations public, according to the report.
  • David said at the time that he was legally obligated to share those details as part of his role.
  • The HRC said at the time of David's ouster that its boards voted to remove him from the role "for violations of his contract with the Human Rights Campaign,"
  • After his ouster, David in a statement said the organization should "expect a legal challenge," accusing the group of "unjustly" providing "notice of termination to me in order to end my fight for the integrity of the review process."

Go deeper: Human Rights Campaign ousts president after Cuomo report

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a statement from HRC interim president Joni Madison.

Go deeper