National Organization for Women President Resigns After Claims of ‘Toxic Work Environment’

Toni Van Pelt
National Organization for Women

The president of the National Organization for Women (NOW) resigned Sunday in the wake of an internal investigation that found evidence of “governance issues” and “a toxic work environment.”

Upon announcing she was stepping down, Toni Van Pelt sent an email to her colleagues on the board, claiming as the reason for her resignation a “very painful health issue,” reported the Daily Beast.

She reportedly added that her doctor had “implored” her “for months to stop working.”

Van Pelt said, up until now, she had been “ignoring” her doctor’s advice and has decided to step down.

According to the Beast, however, NOW leaders received another email stating an internal investigation found “governance issues” and “a toxic work environment” under Van Pelt’s leadership.

Apparently, allegations of racial discrimination and retaliation were also investigated, but not substantiated.

NOW, which describes itself as the ‘grassroots arm of the women’s movement,” is one of the oldest feminist organizations in the country that has now adopted an abortion-centric philosophy.

NOW’s Florida chapter President Kim Porteous said she was very happy to hear of Van Pelt’s resignation, though troubled by her reason for leaving.

“To hear that Toni is stepping down for health issues is offensive,” she said. “We cannot move forward with restorative justice by covering up racism or making excuses for people to leave.”

An investigation into the claims of racism conducted by the Beast itself in June found the allegations “reaching the highest levels of the organization.”

The report continued:

Interviews and internal documents showed that Van Pelt was accused of racist behavior by more than 15 former NOW staffers and interns and that her former vice president, Gilda Yazzie, had filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the organization. Among other things, Van Pelt was accused of telling staffers that she only chose Yazzie, who is Native American, as her running mate because she needed a woman of color to win.

According to the Beast, Van Pelt apologized to NOW officers and colleagues and said she was committed to improve racial relations within the organization.

“All Black Lives matter,” she wrote. “As a White woman, I’ll never understand the experiences of women of color. I challenge myself to address structural racism and recognize that this is a lifelong, ongoing process.”

Other women of color, however, continued to complain about Van Pelt’s treatment of them, including Christian Nunes who will take Van Pelt’s place on August 28 when her resignation becomes effective.

Ultimately, 26 of 35 NOW state chapters joined together in a letter to Van Pelt, asking her to resign.

NOW is not the only feminist organization that faces allegations of racism. Planned Parenthood leaders have also recently been accused of racism and discrimination.

In June, 300 former and current Planned Parenthood employees accused Laura McQuade, former CEO of the abortion giant’s Greater New York affiliate, of “systemic racism” and “abuse,” as they called for her removal.

“The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY), Laura McQuade, has proven to be a toxic leader and autocrat, and we, the current and former staff of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York … demand her immediate removal,” an open letter read.

“Dozens of staff members have witnessed McQuade yell, berate, slam her fists, verbally abuse, humiliate, and bully employees, often brutally shaming staff members in internal meetings in front of their colleagues,” the employees continued.

The workers ultimately accused McQuade of “financial mismanagement,” and “racism and weaponizing of the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion against staff.”

In December 2018, the New York Times also revealed current and former Planned Parenthood employees accused the abortion business of mistreating and discriminating against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.

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