A jury trial has been scheduled in 2023 for the Quad Cities Chamber and two of its leaders who plaintiffs say discriminated against two former chamber employees because of their age and gender. 

In a civil lawsuit filed in Scott County on Nov. 19, 2019, plaintiffs Mary Elizabeth (Betsy) Brandsgard and Sharon Moore name as defendants the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce, Inc., Paul Rumler and Kristin Glass. 

A settlement conference is set for Jan. 12, 2023, and a jury trial is set to begin Feb. 13, 2023, in Scott County Court.  

On Feb. 7, Rumler announced he has resigned to become CEO of a Chicago commercial real estate association called the CCIM Institute. 

In mid-March, Paul Rumler will leave the Quad Cities Chamber as CEO, to head the CCIM Institute, headquartered in Chicago.

Jennifer Walker, vice president, marketing and sales for the Chamber, provided a statement about the lawsuit:  

“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 its 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 and will defend those decisions. The Chamber will not comment further on the pending litigation,” the statement concludes.  

According to the lawsuit: What the plaintiffs say 

On April 16, 2018, Rumler began his tenure as president and chief executive officer of the chamber. During that month, convened an all-staff meeting during which he announced his aspiration to “win the next generation” by becoming the kind of chamber that is “more responsive to members, modern” and hip, the suit says.  

Rumler announced he would deploy a new management system called Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Rumler announced Glass would take on the newly created role of chief strategy officer, making her second in command, the suit says. 

On June 28, 2018, Chamber, Rumler, and Glass terminated five employees, all of whom were female and four of whom were older. On June 28, 2018, both plaintiffs were terminated, the suit says.  

“The only two men caught in the restructuring were retained.” Alternative positions were neither offered nor suggested to any of the five women affected by the restructuring,, the suit says.  

Immediately after the two women in the lawsuit were terminated, the chamber began advertising and filling five positions which brought it back to the identical full-time equivalent count, the suit says.  

Brandsgard’s part of the lawsuit

Brandsgard began working for the chamber in 1995, and most recently held the position of chief operating officer, the suit says.

Prior to June 28, 2018, Rumler began to move some of her key position functions and authorities to Glass, although Glass had limited familiarity or knowledge of these duties and required training and orientation from Brandsgard to undertake them, the suit says. 

In April 2018, in the first EOS team meeting, Brandsgard was questioned by Rumler publicly on whether she had the desire to continue in a leadership role at the chamber. Brandsgard expressed her interest in continuing with her leadership role, the suit says. 

In about May or June 2018, Glass described to Brandsgard “a conversation between Rumler and herself where they discussed how to handle terminating an employee in a manner that would limit exposure and unwanted community conversation and a potential age discrimination claim.” Glass informed Brandsgard that the idea of “restructuring” was floated by Rumler as an acceptable pretext in order to eliminate unwanted persons in a protected class rather than eliminate actual positions, the suit says. 

Though Moore was serving as executive assistant, Glass expressed to Brandsgard that another person, 32 at the time, would be a great executive assistant to support her and Rumler’s roles, the suit says.  

On June 28, 2018, Brandsgard was called into a meeting by Rumler. Brandsgard was told that she was terminated effective immediately. Brandsgard was told her position was being eliminated because of restructuring and that there would not be an overall reduction of full-time employees at the chamber, the suit says. 

Moore’s part of the lawsuit

Moore began working for the chamber in 2008, and most recently was the executive assistant to the president and CEO, the suit says. 

Before April 2018, Glass informed Moore that when she agreed to serve as interim CEO she did so on the condition that she would not serve in a “lesser role” when a permanent CEO was hired; thus she may have to move Brandsgard along somehow, meaning that she would need to find a way to get rid of her, the suit says. 

Prior to June 28, 2018, under Rumler’s new management system “EOS Team,” Moore was informed she would no longer need to attend management team meetings, the suit says.  

On June 28, 2018, Moore was called into a meeting by Rumler. Moore was told she was terminated effective immediately. Moore was told her position was being eliminated because of restructuring and that there would not be an overall reduction of full-time employees at the chamber, the suit says. 

Within a month of Moore’s position being eliminated, the chamber had posted an advertisement online seeking to hire a new executive assistant, the suit says. 

The duties and pay range were almost identical to her former position. The position was offered to another chamber employee, who was 32. She accepted the position, the suit says. 

The suit says both Moore and Brandsgard say they were denied severance pay, including wages and health benefits, after their termination. They were not offered any alternative position or even told of the process or timeline for applying for any new positions at the chamber, the suit says.