Nancy Lublin, the co-founder and chief executive of Crisis Text Hotline, has been fired and removed from her board seat after complaints of a hostile work environment. The board admitted in a statement circulated to staff it has been aware of the situation since 2018 but failed to act.
The firing comes after two days of Crisis Text Hotline staff, many of whom work remotely, staged a “virtual walkout” of the New York City-based nonprofit, using the hashtag #notmycrisistextline.
Lublin did not return outreach for comment. The press office responded with a shortened version of the board statement sent to staff which The NonProfit Times had already obtained.
The nonprofit’s head of communications, Ashley Womble, has been placed on administrative leave, according to the board’s message to staff. There is an “independent investigation” in conjunction with the leave but the memo did not include details.
Lublin, known for an acerbic personality, was dismissed yesterday and ordered to cease all activity associated with Crisis Text Hotline. Her board seat will be filled by a member of the organization’s staff, who will be elected by staff for one-year terms. A search of her name on the organization’s website showed no results.
Board member Dena Trujillo will serve as interim CEO and a nationwide search will begin for Lublin’s replacement, according to the board’s memo, emailed to staff.
In its message, the board wrote “Moving forward, we will explicitly empower all managers, including C-suite, to make decisions necessary to ensure a safe, open and anti-racist work environment for all team members.” An organization-wide town hall is slated for Wednesday. New interim leadership is to be unveiled on Monday.
Anti-racism training for board members will be held on an ongoing basis with the first scheduled for July and a new, permanent position for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) will be created at the organization. The memo includes the development of a zero-tolerance policy for crisis counselors who exhibit racist behavior and the board will seek to diversify the C-suite. “We acknowledge the detriment of our non-diverse C-suite and are committed to fixing this,” according to the staff memo.
The board acknowledged its own missteps. “In 2018 the Board of Directors was made aware of concerns at Crisis Text Line about inappropriate conduct of individuals in leadership positions, including CEO Nancy Lublin. We were given the opportunity to take action, but failed to do enough.”
The memo continued: “Crisis Text Line is not the safe and welcoming place it should be.”
Crisis Text Line is a spinout of DoSomething.org, an organization where Lublin was chief executive officer and then turned over to her chief lieutenant, Aria Finger. Crisis Text Line was started in 2014 and reported total income of $27.1 million and net assets of $35.7 million on its 2018 federal Form 990.
Lublin was paid $135,000, plus $39,746 in other compensation and $111,5390 from a related organization, Crisis Text Line International. There were other big salaries reported such as $350,000 for the chief technology officer, $308,000 for the chief operating officer, and $250,000 for the chief medical officer.
The Form 990 showed 120 paid staff during the year which would include turnover, 4,700 volunteers and 10 independent voting members of the board.
The bulk of the complaints are being voiced by staff, volunteer counselors and former employees via Twitter. Wrote one Twitter participant: “While the leadership was horrendous, the work the company did really was in [cq] benefit to texters [cq]in many ways.”
Some of the Tweets discussed the intertwined nature of Crisis Text Line and DoSomething. One discussion thread alleged that someone accused of sexual harassment and fired at DoSomething was recommended for a job at Crisis Text Line. Its writer alleged that Lublin wanted to make the hire but ultimately did not due to staff pushback.
Former staff and volunteers also posted experiences on medium.com. One former employee asked rhetorically, “How could an organization dedicated to mental health harbor such toxicity?” The writer gave examples of what she believed were unreasonable goals.
A “Happiness Survey” was conducted of staff in late 2015. When the results showed a lack of happiness a memo was sent basically telling people they should consider leaving the organization by a date certain and would be paid to leave.
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