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ASPCA Sued for Racial Discrimination

We reported recently on Glassdoor reviews of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals–and they weren’t pretty. Now, one former employee is taking the ASPCA to court.

In November, Caitlin Byrne, a former employee of the ASPCA, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the organization. Byrne alleges that she was subjected to discriminatory treatment based on her gender and race, as well as retaliation for speaking out about the discrimination. Read the lawsuit here.

Byrne worked at the ASPCA for four years, during which time she claims she was routinely subjected to derogatory comments and behavior from her male colleagues. She says that her male coworkers made sexual comments and jokes in her presence, and that she was excluded from meetings and social events because of her gender and race.

Byrne also alleges that she was passed over for promotions and opportunities because of her gender. She claims that she was told by her supervisor that she was not being considered for a higher-level position because the organization wanted to hire a man for the job.

Additionally, Byrne says that when she brought her concerns to management, she faced retaliation in the form of increased scrutiny of her work and negative performance reviews.

Byrne further alleges that she emailed ASPCA CEO “Million Dollar Matt” Bershadker in December 2021 “outlining her experience with her supervisors but never received a response.”

She claims that she was ultimately forced to resign from her position because of the hostile work environment.

And she says her discriminatory experience wasn’t unique. She also alleges other incidents of discrimination at the ASPCA, including:

  • “A [person of color] woman on the [community engagement] team was experiencing similar treatment as was the plaintiff … and upon information and belief, this person reached out to HR at one point to complain of not being able to handle the treatment but did not get support and was terminated abruptly.”
  • “A Black man in the community medicine department, adjacent to plaintiff’s department, complained of not being promoted, even though he worked for the ASPCA for ten years, and upon information and belief, was put on leave and fired regarding a false complaint made against him that he was not given the chance to dispute.”
  • “Upon information and belief, a Black female veterinarian at the ASPCA was up for a promotion, and felt as though she was given the run around from ASPCA, making it more difficult and requiring more than typical effort in trying to get the promotion she was eligible for, but which she ultimately did not get.”

The lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and additional punitive damages and legal fees. Based on the allegations of additional discrimination, will there be more lawsuits coming against the ASPCA?