Pinterest settles shareholder lawsuit over workplace culture

  • In Business
  • 2021-11-25 00:04:13Z
  • By NBC News

Pinterest has settled a shareholder lawsuit on Wednesday alleging top executives enabled a culture of discrimination.

Financial details of the settlement between Pinterest, a popular social media platform for sharing images, and the shareholder, the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island, were not shared publicly. As part of the agreement, the company is releasing former employees from nondisclosure agreements in cases of racial or gender-based discrimination.

Pinterest is also committing $50 million to a series of reforms aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion across the San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 2008, and its product.

"We pushed for these sweeping reforms to support Pinterest's employees with a fair and safe workplace, and to strengthen the company's brand and performance by ensuring that the values of inclusiveness are made central to Pinterest's identity," Rhode Island General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, who acted on behalf of the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island, said in a press release.

The list of reforms targets allegations made by Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks who first went public in June 2020 with accusations of racism and discrimination at the company. Ozoma, who is Black and helped lead public policy and social impact at Pinterest, said a white male colleague helped to publish her personal information on far-right forums, a process known as doxxing, after she suggested the company add an advisory warning to content from Ben Shapiro, a conservative political commentator she described as a "white supremacist."

Shimizu Banks, who is Black and Japanese, and led public policy and social impact at Pinterest's Washington office, said her manager lied to her when she was negotiating her salary and made disparaging comments about her ethnicity in front of colleagues. Both women said they did the same level of work as their manager, a white man, but made significantly less money.

Two months after they came forward, former Pinterest Chief Operating Officer Françoise Brougher sued the company, saying she was given gendered feedback and also paid less than her male colleagues. She said she was fired after telling Pinterest co-founder and CEO Ben Silbermann about her complaints. Brougher eventually settled with the company for $22.5 million, according to The New York Times.

After these allegations became public, the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island sued the company, saying executives had breached their fiduciary duty by "perpetrating or knowingly ignoring the long-standing and systemic culture of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest," according to the complaint.

Now, Pinterest has agreed to create an office of an ombudsman to respond to employee complaints. It also says it will conduct a pay equity audit across gender and race twice a year, and "take any steps necessary to maintain this equity," according to the settlement.

The company is updating its acceptable use policy to ban doxxing and has created a formal process for escalating complaints of discrimination, harassment or retaliation involving members of the executive team or board.

Pinterest's commitment to not enforce nondisclosure agreements reflects work that Ozoma has done in California with a new law dubbed the "Silenced No More Act." Since she left Pinterest, she has been lobbying lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 331, which would protect employees who speak out about harassment and discrimination, even if they've signed an NDA. On Oct. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Silenced No More Act into law. It will go into effect Jan. 1.

"This is incredible for former and current employees and it's what I've been fighting for since the bill was introduced in February, in regards to releasing former employees from non-disclosure agreements," Ozoma said in an interview with NBC.

Pinterest did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.


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