Investigative

Staff at Planned Parenthood Great Plains expose ‘toxic work culture’

Planned Parenthood

A drop in abortion patients and a decline in revenues and fundraising has created significant financial problems for Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP). Based in Overland Park, Kansas, and with additional clinics in Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, the Planned Parenthood affiliate claims the COVID-19 pandemic has forced it to offer severance packages to dozens of employees. The sudden layoffs have compelled multiple staff members to speak out against the organization’s stressful work environment. 

In addition to not allowing employees enough time to contemplate their separation offers, in June, several staff members pressed PPGP President and CEO Brandon Hill about noticeable pay disparities. While employees had their pay cut by 10% back in April, Hill earned six times as much as lower-ranking staff, drawing in an excess of $200,000. 

The issue of employee satisfaction appears to precede the fiscal problems created by the pandemic. A survey last year revealed widespread employee dissatisfaction, stemming from a top-heavy management structure, pay inequities, and a lack of transparency. According to Maggie Horigan, who previously worked in the human relations department, the problems related to transparency are “definitely reinforced by supervisors and the executive staff.” 

Another Planned Parenthood staffer from the development department, Alex Aguilar, acknowledged the hardships created by the pandemic. But Aguilar believes a “toxic work environment” was a contributing factor to the present challenges. 

READ: Planned Parenthood staffers expose the corporation’s perpetually toxic culture

Last year, nearly 150 employees left the organization, but a high rate of employee turnover is not abnormal for Planned Parenthood. Some workers may be unable to handle seeing the bodies of aborted children every day, while others may be driven to leave due to poor working conditions. Much of the discontent from PPGP employees appears to be left over from Hill’s predecessor, Laura McQuade, who left to become CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York (PPGNY). 

Recently, McQuade was asked to step down as CEO of PPGNY after staff members issued an open letter listing numerous instances of mistreatment. The letter accused McQuade of financial malfeasance, abusive conduct, and of perpetuating acts of systemic racism. Hundreds of past and current employees at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York said that entire departments of Black and Latina women were eliminated, minority workers were subjected to unequal pay, and Black employees were “tokenize[d].”  

For workers at Planned Parenthood Great Plains, many feel that Hill has done little to remedy the legacy McQuade left behind. Luz Ortiz, a former PPGP educator, believes the recent separation offers are not just about the pandemic, but are related to the employee satisfaction survey. 

“I kind of feel like they were just trying to get rid of all the external affairs people because we have been very vocal about how unsatisfied we have been,” Ortiz said.

Talking with KCUR, dozens of PPGP employees admitted to being reluctant to speak about the terrible work environment because they do not want to jeopardize Planned Parenthood’s “mission.” When these staff complaints were addressed to him, Hill replied that overworked employees should be “sedated.” 

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