- Fran Itkoff received an apology from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society
- The 90-year-old volunteer was forced to resign after being asked about pronouns and ‘violating’ diversity and inclusion policies.
- NMSS admitted it “fell short” but said it acted with the best of intentions
The National MS Society has apologized to a 90-year-old volunteer who was forced to resign for “violating his diversity and inclusion policy’ after she asked what pronouns were.
Fran Itkoff had worked at the multiple sclerosis nonprofit for 60 years, and her late husband led the Long Beach Lakewood chapter before his death.
She was stunned when her bosses fired her on Jan. 19 following an exchange with a colleague who asked her to use their pronouns in email signatures.
The nonprofit doubled down on its decision, saying it acted with the “best intentions” despite a furious backlash in which its supporters threatened to withhold its funds.
But on Wednesday, the organization announced it was backtracking on its stance, admitting it “fell short” and offering a humiliating apology to Itkoff.
The National MS Society has apologized to volunteer Fran Itkoff, 90, who was forced to resign for “violating its diversity and inclusion policy” after she asked about pronouns.
She was fired after 60 years of service over an email sent by one of the nonprofit’s representatives that claimed she had violated the group’s DEI guidelines.
“We recently asked Fran to resign from her role as group leader due to statements made that we believed did not align with our recently implemented diversity, equity and inclusion policy,” the statement read.
“We now realize we made a mistake and should have had more conversations with Fran before making this decision.”
However, the non-profit organization reiterated its defense of acting with “the best intentions” and attributed the decision to a lack of “protocol.”
‘We should have spent more time with Fran to help her understand why, as an organization, we are dedicated to building a diverse and inclusive movement where everyone has equitable access to the care, connections and support they need to live their best lives. ‘, added the statement.
“We have apologized directly to Fran and have reached out to her to find a way to continue working together.”
It is unclear if Itkoff will rejoin the organization.
Itkoff was fired via email after a company representative asked her to start using pronouns in her email signature, but she didn’t know what it meant, according to an interview she conducted with TikTo Librariesk.
I had seen it in a couple of letters that came after the person’s name. But I didn’t know what it meant,” the older man said.
“Because it seems like you’re labeling women, not men, if you’re just putting she/her.”
The decision sparked a furious backlash in which his supporters threatened to withhold his funds.
On Wednesday, the MS Society issued a humiliating apology in which it admitted it had “fallen short” but claimed to have acted with the “best of intentions.”
The society said it contacted Itkoff to apologize directly while rescinding his firing.
A few days later, she received an email accusing her of violating the MS Society’s diversity, equity and inclusion guidelines.
“Unfortunately, based on the situation, we have made the difficult decision for you to resign from your volunteer position, effective immediately,” the email reads.
Itkoff said: ‘I was completely shocked. I can’t believe it… I had to read it a couple of times to see if I understood what it said.’
Elle Hamilton, Itkoff’s daughter, said at the time: “It’s ironic to me, because they say they’re inclusive, but they exclude a 90-year-old disabled woman who has been a volunteer for 60 years.”
‘And literally the only purpose was to help MS patients and find a cure. “That’s literally all he does,” Hamilton added.