Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
Humane Society Announces Conclusion of Critical Reconciliation Process

Humane Society Announces Conclusion of Reconciliation Process Aimed at Improving its Workplace Culture

Lieff Cabraser attorney Kelly M. Dermody Commends the Society’s Efforts, Applauds the ‘Courageous Women Who Came Forward’ to Initiate the Transformation – “A tremendous day for HSUS and for the future of the animal welfare movement.”

On October 1, 2018, the Humane Society of the United States announced a Reconciliation Process to improve the organization for the benefit of all HSUS employees and volunteers. On March 12, 2019, the Co-Chairs of the HSUS Board of Directors issued a message to the organization regarding the conclusion of that Reconciliation Process.

These efforts followed the actions of current and former HSUS employees in bravely coming forward to call for change at the organization. The Reconciliation Process was led by noted employee advocate Katherine Kimpel of KK Advising PLLC and was established with input from employment law attorney Kelly M. Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP. The Reconciliation Process was implemented in addition to other actions to which the HSUS Board committed to improve the organization’s workplace culture, including working with culture experts on culture change, completing a Board governance review, and commissioning a pay equity study.

Ms. Dermody noted, “I am pleased to see the statements from Humane Society (HSUS) leadership regarding the independent reconciliation process that was just completed. The reconciliation process engaged by HSUS, and conducted independently by Katherine Kimpel, is something that I am very proud to have assisted with developing on behalf of women at HSUS. I applaud the courageous women who came forward in this process believing that animal welfare is advanced when the people working on these issues are also valued and safe.”

As the Humane Society Board noted in its statement, “It is clear to us that the past few years were extraordinarily difficult for HSUS…our problems were far greater than what was publicly discussed in 2018. There were more victims of abuse, harassment and other inappropriate workplace behavior than had previously been known, and there were more bad actors involved as well. It is also clear that the Board struggled to find its way through the situation and in many ways came up short. We let the organization down and, more importantly, let down the women who were the targets of these inexcusable acts. We failed the organization. There is not one member of this Board who is not extraordinarily sorry for that. We are determined to make the changes that will ensure our failures will never be repeated.”

The Board’s new recommendations include a commitment to:

  1. Professionalize the HSUS reporting, investigation, and resolution experience by training leadership and staff, adopting and implementing a clear, comprehensive, and transparent set of policies and protocols, and enforcing accountability at all levels within the organization.
  2. Establish and maintain a culture of affirmative respect, where people are encouraged to raise concerns, the work for animals is grounded in humane treatment of one another, those who come forward with concerns and complaints are truly protected, and meaningful consequences are imposed for retaliatory or silencing behaviors.
  3. Ensure clear lines of authority and reporting that reflect organizational needs and strategies, prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, and revisit and refine the social media policy and expectations regarding employee conduct to ensure that decision-making is based on consistent, performance-based metrics and not on nepotism, favoritism, or other illegitimate factors.
  4. Establish a Human Resources Committee on the Board that oversees the HSUS’ diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, its handling of employee relations matters, and other critical metrics.
  5. Embrace best practices on Board transparency that enables staff to understand what, how, and why decisions are made.
  6. Ensure that the Board understands and takes into account the staff perspective when considering matters and establish guidelines on when and how the Board and staff should interact.

As Ms. Dermody concluded in her statement on the announcement, “I deeply respect the stakeholders who supported the women and created a transformative process for raising concerns. This is a tremendous day for HSUS and for the future of the animal welfare movement.”

About the Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates provide direct care to more than 100,000 animals each year—more than any other animal welfare organization—through sanctuaries, veterinary programs and emergency shelters and rescues. The Society works to professionalize the field of animal care with its education and training programs. Learn more at humanesociety.org.

About Kelly Dermody

The Chair of Lieff Cabraser’s employment practice group and Managing Partner of Lieff Cabraser’s San Francisco office, Kelly M. Dermody specializes in class and collective actions on behalf of plaintiffs in employment and consumer cases, including gender discrimination cases against GoogleMicrosoft, and Goldman Sachs. Her additional case work includes wage suppression claims against technology, healthcare, and academic institutions; overtime and lost pay lawsuits for low-wage workers, I/T professionals, and foreign nationals working for American corporations; and ERISA claims that she has tried on behalf of employees and retirees for pension plan abuses.