Former employee accuses Davos summit organizers of pregnancy and race discrimination

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Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Klaus Schwab is seen at the opening of the WEF Davos Agenda virtual sessions at the WEF's headquarters in Cologny near Geneva on January 17, 2022.
Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum.

  • A former employee has accused Davos organizers of pregnancy and race discrimination.
  • The lawsuit arrives on the heels of a WSJ investigation ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.wsj.com/business/world-economic-forum-klaus-schwab-discrimination-harassment-de285594) into allegations of a toxic workplace. 
  • “The falsity of these claims will become evident” in court, the World Economic Forum told BI.

A former employee at the World Economic Forum — the organizer of the illustrious Davos summit in the Swiss Alps — has accused the NGO ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.wigdorlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/07/Complaint-Smith-v.-World-Economic-Forum-LLC-et-al.-FILED.pdf) and its founder, Klaus Schwab, in a lawsuit of pregnancy and race discrimination.

In her lawsuit, Topaz Smith, a Black woman who worked as community lead for aviation, travel, and tourism, said she was not given the same opportunities as white colleagues — including not being invited to attend Davos in person.

Smith also said in the lawsuit she was told by one of her supervisors — who is a white South African woman — to consider her “her master.”

Additionally, Smith said that after she announced her pregnancy in 2023, her position at the Forum “began deteriorating,” according to the lawsuit. She said that when she returned from maternity leave, the role she was slated to begin — partner lead for aviation, travel, and tourism — was eliminated and later filled “with a white woman who was not pregnant.”

“While it’s disappointing to see such false claims being made, now that these matters are in court, the falsity of these claims will become evident,” a spokesman for the World Economic Forum told Business Insider in a statement.

An attorney for Smith didn’t immediately return BI’s request for comment.

The lawsuit arrives on the heels of an expansive Wall Street Journal investigation ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.wsj.com/business/world-economic-forum-klaus-schwab-discrimination-harassment-de285594), which described allegations of a toxic workplace at the Forum, including discrimination against women and Black employees.

The roughly fifty-year-old summit convenes top business and government leaders to hash out global issues. The Forum, which organizes the annual event, says its mission ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.weforum.org/about/world-economic-forum/) is to improve the state of the world — and has also published a Global Gender Gap Report ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.weforum.org/publications/global-gender-gap-report-2023/) since 2006.

The event is hosted at a picturesque ski resort ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/davos-switzerland-world-economic-forum-spectacular-winter-scenery-alps-2024-1), bringing together nearly 3,000 world leaders. At this year’s gathering, Sam Altman ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/davos-global-elite-saying-about-ai-behind-closed-doors-2024-1) and Bill Gates ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-richest-countries-and-people-should-be-more-generous-2024-1) opined on artificial intelligence and human generosity.

But the Journal reported in June that several female staffers saw their careers suffer due to pregnancy. Others said they experienced sexual harassment by senior managers at the Forum as well as Davos VIP attendees, according to the Journal.

Black employees also raised complaints at the organization when white colleagues used the N-word in front of them, ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/world-economic-forum-managers-said-n-word-davos-dei-wsj-2024-7) and when they did not receive promotions, the Journal reported.

In May, 86-year-old Schwab told staff in a memo he was stepping aside as the Forum’s executive chairman as part of a planned transition. The Journal reported the announcement came after Schwab wrote to the paper expressing his concerns about its reporting.

The Forum previously called ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/world-economic-forum-managers-said-n-word-davos-dei-wsj-2024-7) the Journal’s report “demonstrably false assertions to mischaracterize our organization.”

Read the original article on Business Insider ^(https://zmeinogorsk.ru//https://www.businessinsider.com/davos-organizer-accused-lawsuit-pregnancy-race-discrimination-2024-7)


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