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A former Planned Parenthood executive is suing the nonprofit, saying she faced racism and hostility

<i>Courtesy Nicole Moore</i><br/>Nicole Moore
Courtesy Nicole Moore
Nicole Moore

By Nicquel Terry Ellis and Meron Moges-Gerbi, CNN

A former Planned Parenthood executive is suing the nonprofit under claims that the organization wrongfully fired her and retaliated against her when she made complaints about alleged unfair treatment of Black women.

Nicole Moore, who is Black, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in federal court. Moore served as Planned Parenthood’s director of multicultural brand engagement at its Manhattan headquarters from January 2020 to November 2021.

In a statement to CNN, Moore accuses Planned Parenthood of carrying out a broad pattern of anti-Black racism in which she says her managers diminished her complaints and then punished her.

She alleges that the organization created a hostile work environment where she was berated for expressing concerns about racial disparities in who was leading projects; was made to feel uncomfortable and tokenized during work meetings; and her department budget was significantly cut after it had already been approved. Moore said she was put on a “performance improvement plan” after she complained about the racism.

In the statement to CNN, Moore said she wants to “shed light on the fact that racism at Planned Parenthood directly impacts the access and quality of reproductive health care that Black women receive around the country.”

“If staffers are dealing with anti-Blackness, retaliation, and disregard in the workplace, how can we then expect this organization to possibly deliver compassionate care to Black women who are seeking their services?” Moore said. “I hope that my story inspires real change at Planned Parenthood so that the organization can fully live up to its promise to ‘Stand With Black Women’ — starting with those who work there.”

Susan Manning, interim general counsel for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America & Planned Parenthood Action Fund, denied Moore’s allegations in a statement to CNN. Manning said the organization’s top priority was “building a culture of diversity” and providing “reproductive health for all.”

“Our staff is at the core of who we are and we work everyday to ensure a safe and welcoming environment,” Manning said. “We strongly dispute the plaintiff’s allegations against the organization and categorically deny her claims of discrimination. Planned Parenthood will vigorously defend against this suit, and welcomes the opportunity to share the complete picture.”

Planned Parenthood has been at the center of the abortion rights fight which faced perhaps its greatest obstacle in June when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court. Abortion restrictions are expected to have a significant impact on Black and brown women who live in states that have banned it and can’t afford to travel for the procedure.

An ongoing problem, plaintiff says

Moore said the pattern of racism she alleges at Planned Parenthood has affected other Black people working at the nonprofit.

For example when several employees of color complained about Planned Parenthood only hiring all-White film crews for video shoots, they were told to draft a “diversity and inclusion” rider that was ignored by staff, according to the complaint. Planned Parenthood also frequently hired White friends and family members of executives and paid them more than Black consultants, the lawsuit says.

And in 2020, Planned Parenthood hired a company to conduct a racial audit in which Black employees complained of racism, overt hostility, lack of upward mobility, and being overworked. The results were leaked to Buzzfeed in October of that year.

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood released a statement to Buzzfeed at that time saying the nonprofit was “committed to confronting the organization’s legacy of white supremacy head on” and that the audit was an “important component of the comprehensive and meaningful work we are undertaking to create belonging and equity.

Susan Crumiller, an attorney for Moore, said Planned Parenthood’s unfair treatment of Black employees was nothing new.

“For years, many Black employees have spoken out privately about racism at Planned Parenthood to no avail,” Crumiller said in a statement. “We are proud of Nicole for her courage in coming forward publicly and honored to help her hold the organization accountable. This action should be a wake-up call to Planned Parenthood that it urgently needs to repair its culture if it wants to save abortion rights.”

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