Workplace misconduct is unfortunately back in the headlines.
This time it is in the social media space as Pinterest has agreed a $50m settlement of a shareholder lawsuit that alleges female and people of color working at the company faced discrimination.
In a suit filed in 2020, Pinterest shareholder the Employee of Retirement System of Rhode Island accused the company’s board of failing to respond to a culture of discrimination and retaliation.
The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island claimed the “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.
The suit came on the back of public criticism of Pinterest in June 2020 by two black female employees – Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks – working in its public policy team, according to the New York Times.
The pair accused the company of failing to pay and promote employees fairly, as well as retaliated against those who spoke out. Ozoma tweeted about her experiences after she decided to quit the company:
c) kept all the above quiet for “professionalism,” and in the hope that @Pinterest would do the right thing. Instead, they doubled down on retaliation. 1 wild ex: My manager gave me bad perf review feedback for not both-sidesing the promo of slave plantations. I have receipts. 5/
— Ifeoma Ozoma (@IfeomaOzoma) June 15, 2020
This caused former chief operating officer Françoise Brougher to sue Pinterest. She claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed for complaining about being paid less than her male colleagues and being given gendered feedback.
Brougher and Pinterest settled the suit for $22.5 million back in December 2020. This is one of the largest publicly announced individual settlements for gender discrimination to date.
“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher said in an interview. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”
Ozoma celebrated the news on twitter:
What. A. Freaking. Day.
This is what accountability looks like. I’m definitely giving thanks!!!! https://t.co/TNFypH9jw6
— Ifeoma Ozoma (@IfeomaOzoma) November 25, 2021
Improving company culture at Pinterest
As part of the settlement, Pinterest committed itself to make workplace reforms, which would be overseen by an audit committee to focus on equal opportunities at the social media company.
Pinterest will also conduct a pay equity audit twice a year and implement a formal process for investigating complaints through an office of an ombudsman.
The settlement further released all former employees from their non-disclosure agreements.
Talking about the settlement and the allegations, a Pinterest spokesperson told the New York Times that it had “reached a resolution with certain shareholders who raised concerns and filed derivative lawsuits concerning the allegations made last year about the company’s culture.”
“Since that time, we have been working hard to ensure that our culture reflects our goals and values and today’s resolution,” the company continued.
UNLEASH has reached out to Pinterest for a comment.
Talking about the most recent shareholder settlement, General treasurer of Rhode Island acting on behalf of the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island said:
“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.
Will this be sufficient to correct Pinterest’s culture of discrimination or will it see more lawsuits?