Gallagher's future with the organization had been up in the air for some time. According an article in the HuffPost published in January, the UWW board met recently to discuss whether Gallagher should step down after the HuffPost reported in November that, over the past two years, three women employees of the organization had filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging they were fired or ostracized for reporting misconduct to United Way's human resources department, and more than twenty former employees subsequently sent a letter to the UWW board saying they had experienced harassment and discrimination while employed by the organization. An investigation by a law firm hired by UWW found no evidence of "actionable harassment, discrimination, or retaliation," although none of the three original complainants was interviewed.
At the same time, as many as two hundred and twenty local United Way chapters have refused to pay dues that the national office had doubled without warning to pay for a botched modernization of the organization's fundraising platform. In January, the organization laid off staff and announced pay cuts for some senior positions and is expected to announce more layoffs later this month.
"We were actively working toward a transition for me sometime later in 2021 at the conclusion of a CEO search process," Gallagher wrote in a farewell note to his colleagues. "But I and the board think it's best for United Way if I step down as CEO sooner. It was important to me that I stay through this period so my colleagues and I could be cleared of any wrongdoing. That's done; and now it feels like the right time."
Gallagher worked at local United Ways beginning in 1981 before becoming president and CEO of United Way of America in 2002 and CEO of United Way Worldwide in 2009.
"I was pleased to hear that United Way has decided to do the right thing and make a change in leadership," Lisa Bowman, a former executive vice president and chief marketing officer who alleges Gallagher fired her in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment by another executive, told the AP. "This was a necessary step — but only the first step — toward creating a safe, equitable workplace where women are treated with respect and allowed to reach their full potential."
(Photo credit: United Way Worldwide)