Pinterest to pay $22.5 million to settle one gender discrimination lawsuit but new lawsuit filed by shareholders
On August 11, 2020 Françoise Brougher, the top female executive at Pinterest filed a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court, accusing the company of firing her after she complained about sexist treatment. Ms. Brougher claimed that she had been left out of important meetings, was given gendered feedback, was paid less than her male peers when she originally joined the company, and ultimately was let go for speaking up about it. When the company went public in 2019, Ms. Brougher learned that she was paid less than her male peers and that her equity grants were “backloaded,” meaning most of them vested after several years, while her executive male peers’ grants were not. The lawsuit also alleged that the claimant was not invited to talk to investors for the company’s initial public offering, even though she was responsible for the company’s revenue and over 2,000 employees. After the company went public, Ms. Brougher said that she was not invited to board meetings but members of her team were sometimes invited without her knowledge. In an August 2020 blog post titled “The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity,” Ms. Brougher chronicles her ordeal and calls out Pinterest Co-Founder and CEO Ben Silbermann.
On Monday, December 14, 2020, Pinterest agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle the case. According to Ms. Brougher’s lawyer, this is the largest publicly announced individual settlement for gender discrimination in U.S. history. Part of the settlement entails an agreement that Ms. Brougher and Pinterest will jointly donate $2.5 million to organizations advancing women and underrepresented communities in tech.
Ms. Brougher isn’t the first Pinterest employee to complain about discrimination. In June of 2020 two Black female employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, claimed that they were retaliated against for seeking equitable pay. The two women made their complaints public by speaking out on Twitter, describing racist and sexist comments, pay inequities, and retaliation. During that time, a petition asking Pinterest to pay its Black employees fairly reached 25,000 signatures. In response to the petition, the company hired a consultant to review the company’s culture, policies and practices.
In November, Pinterest shareholders sued Silberman and other top executives in a lawsuit filed by the Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) alleging that top executives enabled race and gender discrimination. The suit stated that the instances of alleged discrimination are part of a “long-standing and systemic culture of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest” where executives and board members knowingly ignored the discrimination. The plaintiffs alleged that the company wasted valuable corporate assets on legal costs and that the company’s reputation was damaged due to the failure to address the issues.