Three days after issuing a statement backing its chief executive, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, which completed a merger in January and instituted widespread layoffs in April, separated from its president and CEO in response to an uprising from current and former staff.
In a June 22 letter, the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York said it “parted ways” with CEO Laura McQuade. “We will be moving fast to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership to move our organization forward in this challenging moment. Our highest priority is to best serve our patients and to ensure our employees feel valued,” the letter stated.
Chief Operating Officer Racquel Benford, Chief People Officer Alicia Kenaley, and Chief Development Officer Keith Corso will report directly to the board of directors while it works toward a permanent solution.
“We are committed to ongoing communication, and we will follow up with a more comprehensive statement shortly,” according to the June 22 letter.
In a June 19 statement, the board expressed support for McQuade in response to “Save PPGNY,” a group of current and former employees who questioned McQuade’s decision around layoffs but also posted a list of alleged grievances, such as abusive behavior, financial mismanagement and “weaponizing” of the work of diversity, equity and inclusion against staff.
McQuade could not be reached for comment. She has served as president and CEO since September 2017. That year, McQuade earned total compensation of $192,499, including base compensation of $108,053, according to its 2017 federal Form 990, the most recent available.
It’s at least the second time this month that a nonprofit insurrection of sorts has led to the removal of a chief executive. Two days after employees at Crisis Text Line (CTL) staged a “virtual walkout” using the hashtag, “NotMyCrisisTextLine,” Co-founder and Chief Executive Nancy Lublin was fired and removed from the board. The move came after complaints of a hostile work environment dating back to 2018 in which the board failed to act.
Save PPGNY was signed by dozens of former and current employees, both anonymously and not, and described McQuade as a “toxic leader and autocrat,” and expressed a “profound lack of confidence” in McQuade as well as officers and the board. “In her two-and-a-half-year tenure, McQuade has created a culture of fear and intimidation; we have witnessed her cull dissenters and surround herself with enablers.”
During the past 18 months, according to Save PPGNY, staff had tried to resolve issues internally, meeting with senior leadership and reaching out to the board. “Our many efforts to elevate our voices were met with silence, indifference, and an increasing disregard for staff well-being. We wanted change; all we got was pizza.”
Save PPGNY, which did not reply to email messages seeking comment, described its public effort as a “final chance to force the change that PPGNY “desperately needs not only to survive but to thrive.”
Three weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, Save PPGNY said McQuade sent an all-staff email announcing imminent layoffs, citing an originally projected deficit of $10 million for 2020 would become $20 million to $32 million.
By early April, PPGNY laid off 15 percent of staff, furloughed another 15 percent, and 4 percent had hours reduced. Staff reductions occurred across the board among the nearly 870 employees, scattered among six regions in eastern and central New York state.
“There was no part of our organization that I deemed we could live without,” McQuade told The NonProfit Times in a telephone interview about the layoffs in May. “Rather than cut out pieces of the organization, we tried to shrink the size of the entire pie,” she said.
A June 19 statement from the PPGNY board backed McQuade. “Like many other organizations, we are also in a moment of reckoning in our nation’s history. We acknowledge the open letter from some PPGNY staff, which speaks to this difficult transformation.
“In early 2019, we made significant salary adjustments to advance pay parity. Today we continue to address pay inequity through a compensation alignment project. We also publicly committed to race equity as foundational to the organization’s transformation, supported through organizational learning and accountability to staff, patients, and community.
“The board fully supports the work and leadership of Laura McQuade and her team and commits to continuing the transformation that will make us a stronger, more equitable organization for our staff and communities,” according to a June 19 statement.
In a follow-up statement since McQuade’s separation, the board said “This is just the start of a conversation that is long overdue. We recognize that our actions — our inactions — have contributed to people’s hurt and frustration. We take responsibility for that, and for the work ahead.”
The letter included initial steps the organization will take, including, forming a search committee and launching a national search for a new CEO that will consider views of staff. The board “reaffirmed” its commitment to being an “anti-racist organization,” and working to ensure composition is more representative of the communities served.