Metro Weekly

HRC Settles Lawsuit with Alphonso David

The fired HRC president and the organization's boards of directors reached a confidential settlement in David's racial bias lawsuit.

Alphonso David — Photo: Todd Franson

The Human Rights Campaign settled a lawsuit brought by its former president, Alphonso David, who claimed he had been racially discriminated against when he was fired last year.

The boards of directors for both HRC and the HRC Foundation, the organization’s educational arm, voted to terminate David in September 2021 after he was accused of providing the confidential personnel file of Lindsey Boylan to aides of ex-N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo. Boylan, a former Cuomo staffer, had accused the governor of sexual harassment. The aides leaked the file, including workplace complaints about Boylan, to media outlets, in an attempt to discredit her.

The incident involving David was detailed in a report issued by New York Attorney General Letitia James investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against Cuomo, for whom David had served as in-house counsel before joining HRC. 

David, who had been serving as president of HRC for two years, claimed that he did nothing wrong, and in fact had a legal obligation to hand over the document in question, which he has characterized as a copy of a memo he helped craft about his time investigating and counseling Boylan over an alleged workplace conflict in which she was involved. The internal office conflict was unrelated to Boylan’s claims that Cuomo harassed her.

Faced with the allegations against David — and the negative press that resulted from those being made public — the boards of HRC and the HRC Foundation hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct a 30-day internal investigation into the matter.

The results of the investigation were never made public. David claimed, on Twitter, that he had been cleared of wrongdoing, but the boards publicly pushed back against that explanation.

David also alleged that the co-chairs of the organization’s boards, Jordie Patterson and Morgan Cox, had contacted him privately to ask him to consider resigning on the grounds that his entanglement in the Cuomo scandal was a “distraction” from HRC’s mission. He refused to resign.

David, HRC’s first Black president, subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging that racial bias had played a role in the organization’s decision to dismiss him following the fallout from the Cuomo scandal — a charge that the organization denied.

David claimed that HRC had a “racist, biased culture” and a “deserved reputation for unequal treatment of its non-white employees,” perpetuating an environment where non-white staffers were often marginalized, belittled, or denied advancement opportunities. He had sought damages for the firing and the loss of compensation and benefits stemming from his termination and asked to be reinstated.

In mid-March, David and HRC confirmed, in a joint statement, that the two sides had reached a settlement. The settlement terms remain confidential, but the statement said that all parties involved had chosen to “amicably resolve” the lawsuit.

David has since become the president and chief executive officer of the Global Black Economic Forum. 

Last September, the Human Rights Campaign named a new president, Kelley Robinson, a former reproductive rights activist, making her the first Black woman to head the LGBTQ rights organization. 

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