Posted on February 3, 2022

Human Rights Campaign’s First Black Leader Sues Over Firing, Alleging Racial Bias

Matt Lavietes, NBC News, February 3, 2022

The former president of the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, sued the organization in federal court on Thursday, alleging that he was underpaid and then terminated “because he is Black” and saying the HRC has a “deserved reputation for unequal treatment of its non-white employees.”

Alphonso David, a Black civil rights lawyer who led the HRC for over two years, was fired in September after a report by New York Attorney General Letitia James described how he had helped “discredit” a sexual harassment accuser of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. David, who was Cuomo’s chief counsel from 2015 to 2019, has denied any wrongdoing.

In his lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of New York, David contends that he was fired “because he is Black” and that the group “maintained discriminatory employment practices.”

David alleges that while discussing his contract renewal, HRC board members “acknowledged” that he was paid less than his white predecessor “because of his race.” He also says that he was repeatedly discouraged from discussing race in public. The board members did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

In one instance, shortly after giving a speech on race, David alleges that a “prominent” white board member confronted him in front of other HRC staffers and said: “We all know you’re Black, why do you keep telling us that?”

And following the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the suit says, a senior executive criticized David for issuing a statement on the HRC’s behalf in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. David alleges that the executive expressed concern about “alienating” white donors and specifically “white gay men.”

The suit alleges that the same executive asked David to remove the fact that he was the group’s first Black president from his bio on the group’s website and “expressed displeasure” about hiring a Black-owned consulting firm.

In one instance, David describes a scene in which the same executive criticized a Black staffer for attending a meeting with the firm without the presence of a white staffer.


The HRC’s interim president, Joni Madison, said in a statement that David’s role in assisting Cuomo led to his termination and that the lawsuit is “riddled with untruths.”