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Two former employees sue Quad Cities Chamber for discrimination against their age and gender

Two employees say it’s because of their age and gender, while the Chamber says it’s because of their restructuring plan.

MOLINE, Illinois -- Two women are suing the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, CEO and President, Paul Rumler, and Chief Strategy Officer, Kristin Glass.

Former employees Mary Elizabeth (Betsy) Brandsgard and Sharon Moore filed the lawsuit in Scott County against the chamber after they say they were let go due to their age and gender.  The Chamber says they were let go due to a restructuring plan.

Brandsgard started work in 1995 as the Chief Operating Officer, while Moore started back in 2008 as the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO.

Rumler became the President CEO in April 2018.  He replaced Glass who was serving as the interim CEO since July 2017.

In April 2018, Rumler called a staff meeting where he announced his motive to "win the next generation" by becoming the kind of chamber that is "more responsive to members, modern" and hip.

After Rumler became the CEO, Brandsgard says she heard discussions of cutbacks and told VP of Finance, Leslie Anderson, the cutbacks "might disproportionately impact older employees."

Moore said she also heard discussions from Glass saying she was looking for ways to get rid of Brandsgard because (Glass) would not serve a lesser role when a new CEO was named.

In June 2018, Rumler let go of five employees (including Brandsgard and Moore), "all of whom were female and four of whom were older," read the lawsuit.  None of the employees were given severance, including wages or benefits.

Click here to read the full lawsuit.

Two additional male employees, Greg Aguilar and Jason Gordon, also had positions in jeopardy.  They ended up staying with the chamber after they were both given new positions that had a lesser title.

Moore was replaced by Jessica Webb, 32 years old.

In a statement to News 8 the Chamber said:

"Since early 2018, the Quad Cities Chamber has focused on becoming a more effective, efficient, and financially strong entity.  These changes have allowed the Chamber to continue its mission and better meet the needs of the community.  As part of this process, the Chamber restructured it's budget, work plan, and workforce.  The restructure resulted in much needed and positive growth for the Chamber, but also led to the elimination of certain positions within the organization. Based on such restructuring, the Chamber finds itself defendant in a lawsuit brought by two former Chamber employees. The Chamber stands by the difficult decisions it made during the restructure an will defend those decisions.  The Chamber will not comment further on the pending litigation."

News 8 also received the following statement from Brandsgard and Moore's attorney at Roxanne Conlin & Associates, P.C.:

"As clearly set forth in the lawsuit, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce engaged in prohibited age and sex discrimination, under the guise of “restructuring”.  This pretext has been used time and time again throughout the state and this county to eliminate qualified, competent employees for no other reason than their age, sex, race, or other protected class.  This discrimination must stop.  Betsy and Sharon are confident that as this litigation proceeds and the community gets a full understanding of the facts, their rights will be upheld and the defendants held accountable for their unlawful actions."