HRC Foundation Chief Resigns for Using the “N-Word”

Mary Beth Maxwell used the word to describe instances in which she had heard others say it.

The head of the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, Mary Beth Maxwell, has resigned following her use of the “n-word” in the workplace.

Maxwell twice used the racial epithet at work, according to an internal document from HRC President Chad Griffin obtained by Politico, and in both cases was not using the term to offend but rather to describe instances in which she heard the slur and was herself offended.

Still, her use of the word in full, instead of saying, “the n-word,” resulted in her being suspended without pay. She then offered her resignation, which Griffin, who called use of the word “inappropriate and harmful,” accepted.

“In the first instance, the senior staff member recounted an upsetting personal story in which the term was used,” Griffin wrote in a memo to staff. “In a second instance, the senior staff member repeated the word in describing an external situation that they found horrifying, in which racial and homophobic slurs were used.”

Griffin went on to explain that “the lesson learned here” is that “intent does not matter.”

“It is the impact of that word that matters,” he said. “It simply is never acceptable for that word to be said by an employee in the workplace, period.”

Maxwell wrote a letter to staff expressing her “deep regret” for using the word, and adding she doesn’t want her “action” or “presence” to distract from the work the organization is doing.

“While in each instance I was conveying something that really happened—in the first I was emotional and scared that it had been said and in the second feeling urgency about addressing a deeply racist and homophobic encounter that a colleague recounted—I realize I should never have said that word out loud,” she wrote.

Prior to joining HRC in 2015, Maxwell served in the Obama administration, in the U.S. Department of Labor.

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