Former Planned Parenthood Employee Says the Racism Was So Bad She Lost Her Hair

Photo:  Michael M. Santiago (Getty Images)
Photo: Michael M. Santiago (Getty Images)

Nicole Moore, former director of multicultural brand engagement at Planned Parenthood, is suing the organization over repeated instances of racial discrimination during her employment. The complaint was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York.

Moore joined the family planning organization in January 2020. Her lawsuit alleges that Planned Parenthood “has blatantly ignored reports by dozens of its Black employees of systemic unequal hiring and promotion, more work for lower pay, overt hostility, and trafficking in stereotypes by leadership. Instead of addressing the issues, Planned Parenthood has doubled down by punishing employees of color who dare to speak up, pretextually disciplining them and creating working conditions so intolerable that they are effectively forced to leave.”

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Moore alleges her time at Planned Parenthood resulted in “severe anxiety, persistent insomnia, loss of appetite, and periods of dizziness and shortness of breath.” Moore says she’s currently undergoing psychotherapy. After being put on a personal improvement plan (a path for employees deemed to be struggling at work that is supposed to be a collaborative process) in September, Moore was fired in October 2021. In the lawsuit, a union representative said the firing was the “coldest termination [he had] ever witnessed.”

Planned Parenthood said it “strongly” disagrees with the lawsuit’s allegations. Interim General Counsel Susan Manning told Jezebel that the organization’s “top priority for our dedicated staff is building a culture of diversity across the organization to fulfill our mission of 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. We strongly dispute the plaintiff’s allegations against the organization and categorically deny her claims of discrimination,” Manning said in a statement to Jezebel. “Planned Parenthood will vigorously defend against this suit, and welcomes the opportunity to share the complete picture.” 

Buried deep in the lawsuit is Moore’s experience with alopecia starting in January 2022. The hair loss is a result of her stressful work environment, she contends. “In April [2022], she saw a professional hair stylist, who told her that she could see signs of alopecia and informed her that hair loss usually results from stressful times that occurred 2-4 months before the loss started showing. Some of the loss appears to be irreversible,” the lawsuit states.

This is not the first time Planned Parenthood has been accused of racism. In August 2020, the healthcare provider and other mainstream reproductive rights groups were called out for racism at the rank-and-file and executive level. An internal audit commissioned by Planned Parenthood found that dozens of its Black employees alleged discriminatory practices, including being required to do more and given less leeway. In an organizing call in September 2021 held by Planned Parenthood and other relative organizations, the call was unsecured and led to someone calling Black organizers the n-word in front of nearly 500 people. (This isn’t just at the national level: The CEO of a northwest Planned Parenthood chapter was fired after she allowed a donor to use a racial slur at a dinner and then repeated the racial slur at least twice to a staff member.)

The lawsuit also alleges one of Moore’s supervisors chastised her for posting about all this on her personal Instagram page. The lawsuit claims the supervisor “mentioned that she had seen Moore post a meme about being ‘tired’ on her personal Instagram, that Moore had no reason to be tired, that she ‘worked the least of anyone on [the] team,’ and that she needed to ‘step it up.’”

The suit itself shows numerous cracks in the Planned Parenthood façade. When Moore was put on a personal improvement plan, she reached out to the Planned Parenthood employees union, but the union is currently in contract negotiations with management, and Moore’s allegations were caught in the middle. “Moore contacted Planned Parenthood’s new union to seek guidance. However, the union was unable to be of much help as it was (and to this day, still is) battling the organization’s failure and refusal to ratify its contract,” the suit alleges.

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