United Way Worldwide Board of Trustees Chair, Juliette Tuakli, and United Way U.S.A. Board of Trustees Chair, Neeraj Mehta, today issued the following statement.
In November 2020, the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP was retained to conduct an independent investigation into the manner and processes by which UWW management handled recent allegations reported in the media and the extent to which our policies were followed in addressing them. The investigation and Proskauer’s work were overseen by a Special Committee composed of members of both of United Way’s independent governing Boards, with independent counsel from the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP advising the Special Committee.
Independent Investigation Results
The investigation was completed in a thorough, thoughtful, and dutiful manner, while also recognizing the urgency of the situation at hand.
In regard to the specific allegations, Proskauer’s investigation found that, first, and foremost, UWW’s handling and investigation of the internal complaints made to UWW by the three employees who subsequently filed charges with the EEOC was appropriate and that UWW followed appropriate processes and procedures in its handling of the three subject complaints. The subsequent employment decisions made with respect to the three employees at issue were found to be based on legitimate, non-discriminatory, and non-retaliatory reasons. Although outside the scope of Proskauer’s investigation, based on the information gathered through their investigation, Proskauer did not find evidence UWW engaged in actionable harassment, discrimination, or retaliation with respect to the three employees. Proskauer also noted that workplace culture and morale are areas that the Boards should examine more deeply, and assessed UWW’s policies and procedures regarding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and the reporting and investigation of such matters, finding areas that could be enhanced.
About the Investigation
- The investigation was independent, overseen by outside advisors, and accountable directly to the Boards alone. United Way Worldwide leadership had no authority over the investigation. Proskauer and Weil each reported directly to the Special Committee and the Boards.
- Proskauer was given full access to UWW and its people, and believes it received the full cooperation from the organization. All current UWW employees were twice encouraged to contact Proskauer through an anonymous and private email address to contribute to the investigation and provide relevant information. Proskauer received 20 responses as of January 25, 2021, and respondents represented various levels of the organization. Proskauer responded to every person who contacted them.
- In total, Proskauer conducted interviews with 23 current UWW employees.
- Proskauer reviewed over 2,500 pages of documents, consisting of policies and procedures, complaints submitted to UWW’s Ethics Hotline, personnel records, employee surveys, and various policy manuals.
Proskauer’s investigation results include a number of suggestions and recommendations relating to potential enhancements to strengthen our policies, practices, and procedures, including those relating to management and other training and reporting and investigating complaints. The Boards plan to review and incorporate these recommendations as a part of a broader action plan for ongoing improvement of United Way’s governance and transparency and have outlined the next steps further below.
UWW Actions and Next Steps
Although the investigation results found that UWW handled these complaints appropriately, the Boards recognize the need to address the broader organizational and reputation issues. To drive this needed change, the Boards are forming a Culture Task Force. Beginning February 2021, the UWW and UW USA Boards of Trustees will lead an initiative to re-create an authentic, empowered, and human-first culture. The Task Force will examine several elements of UWW culture including engagement, professional development, accountability, transparency, and mission and purpose. We are confident that by holistically examining our current culture, we can develop a blueprint for better realizing inclusivity, collaboration, and mutual respect. The Task Force will reflect the full constitution of the United Way network, involving employees and partners at every level and from various geographies and roles across United Way’s network.
We thank everyone who has shared feedback on these topics.
Lastly, we cannot overstate our appreciation and gratitude for the incredible efforts we continue to witness by our network around the pandemic. Our collective response as one network is truly inspiring.