Brian A. Gallagher, who has led United Way Worldwide, the world’s largest privately funded non-profit since 2009, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday amid claims that the charity mishandled internal allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Gallagher’s resignation, announced in a farewell note, takes effect March 1. The group’s board of directors plans to announce an interim CEO before he leaves.
In November, after complaints filed by three former female employees with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and published reports in HuffPost, United Way Worldwide hired a law firm to investigate the claims and the way the non-profit’s leadership handled them. Last week, the firm, Proskauer Rose, concluded that management’s handling of the complaints was appropriate and that the dismissals were “based on legitimate, non-discriminatory, and non-retaliatory reasons.”
Gallagher said in his farewell note that the report’s release made him decide to move up his planned exit.
“We were actively working toward a transition for me sometime later in 2021 at the conclusion of a CEO search process,” Gallagher wrote to his colleagues. “But, I and the board think it’s best for United Way if I step down as CEO sooner. It was important to me that I stay through this period so my colleagues and I could be cleared of any wrongdoing. That’s done; and now it feels like the right time.”
Lisa Bowman, who was executive vice-president and chief marketing officer at United Way Worldwide until she said she was fired by Gallagher as retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by another executive, said the investigation was “not fair, balanced or thorough” because the investigators did not talk with any of the women involved.
“I was pleased to hear that United Way has decided to do the right thing and make a change in leadership,” Bowman told the Associated Press. “This was a necessary step — but only the first step — toward creating a safe, equitable workplace where women are treated with respect and allowed to reach their full potential.”
Bowman’s complaint with the EEOC is still pending.
“I hope that United Way will take this opportunity to listen and learn, so that it can continue and improve upon its important work to support communities around the world,” she said.
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Glenn Gamboa, The Associated Press