Chair of WEF Klaus Schwab been sued, for discrimination.


A former World Economic Forum (WEF) employee has sued the Swiss non-profit and its chair, Klaus Schwab, for discrimination. The lawsuit was filed in New York on Monday by Topaz Smith, a Black woman, who alleged that during her nearly two-year tenure at the forum, she was denied professional opportunities due to her race and gender. The suit claims the WEF maintains a “scofflaw approach to anti-discrimination laws, permitting an atmosphere that is hostile to women and Black employees.”

Smith recounted an incident where a white manager told her to consider her white boss as her “master.” She stated that public-facing roles at the Davos conference were typically given to white employees. Furthermore, Smith alleged she was terminated in February in retaliation for having a child, with her position being filled by a “non-pregnant, white employee” during her maternity leave.

“It is long past time that the Forum and Mr. Schwab are held to account for their horrendous pattern of sexualising and objectifying women,” said Valdi Licul, Smith’s lawyer and a partner at Wigdor, in a statement. “The Forum and Mr. Schwab should be made to understand that such discrimination is flatly unlawful in the United States.”

A spokesperson for the WEF did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit follows other allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment at the non-profit, which hosts the high-profile Davos conference each January. This event, attended by CEOs, heads of state, non-profit leaders, and diplomats, often makes headlines.

Schwab, who founded the forum, announced in May that he would step down as executive chair and assume a new role as chair of the WEF’s board of trustees.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal published an article detailing numerous allegations of employee harassment and discrimination at the forum. The report claimed Schwab had made sexual advances or inappropriate comments to some female employees, and that young, female employees were often subject to unwanted advances at the annual conference, with minimal oversight from the non-profit.

In response, the forum stated that the WSJ article “mischaracterise[s] our organisation, culture and colleagues, including our founder.”