Discrimination cases are commonly settled in private when it comes to big businesses; however, on December 14th, Pinterest’s previous chief operating officer settled a lawsuit for $22.5 million in one of the largest public individual settlements for gender discrimination.
Françoise Brougher started working at Pinterest as the chief operating officer back in 2018. In this position, she was responsible for company revenue and over 2,000 employees. Despite these high ranking responsibilities, she was exempt from important meetings, received lower pay than her male counterparts, and endured gendered comments from coworkers during her time at Pinterest. She spoke up about this discriminatory treatment and was let go shortly after, in April of 2020.
The absence of action taken in response to her concerns about gender discrimination was only worsened by the company’s retaliation as expressed through Ms. Brougher’s dismissal. These actions do not reflect an inclusive, respectful, and safe working environment.
Ms. Brougher’s claims were further backed by the experience of two other female Pinterest employees who quit in June. Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks both experienced racist and sexist comments compounded by inequality in pay. They, too, expressed these concerns with the company and were met with retaliation that made quitting the most viable option. Other accounts of issues with employee treatment and company culture have circled Pinterest for years, but this time Ms. Brougher would hold the company accountable.
The lawsuit started in August, and Ms. Brougher was sure to keep it individual and insight of the public. The goal was more than reimbursement of lost pay, this lawsuit was used to send a message about the importance of equality within the workplace, and it made an impact.
Pinterest has not admitted to any liability; however, much change has come about since the recent resolution of this lawsuit. Pinterest has hired two new individuals for their board of directors, Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith, to expand diversity and equality within the company. Salary information has been made more transparent so discrepancies between individual pay that are discrimination based can be noted and resolved. An advisory partnership with the National Association For The Advancement Of Colored People has also sprung out of this lawsuit. Most impressively, this lawsuit ended in a joint donation of $2.5 million from Ms. Brougher and Pinterest to charities supporting female minorities.
This lawsuit stands out for all it has contributed to solving the problem that it originated from. Though there is still much change to be made, and Pinterest must prove its commitment to change, this event has resulted in high hopes for more serious consideration of gender equality, especially within Silicon Valley businesses.
Events concerning discrimination of any form can occur within every company, and it is the company’s responsibility to manage such events in a way that promotes a safe and respectful company culture. Prevention and accountability are key in these situations, but these responses don’t always happen. Here at First Response, we work diligently to help companies advance past discrimination through the proper education of employees and progressive human resource systems. A lawsuit like Pinterest’s comes with great stress and such an event should not be needed for change to be enacted. We are here to help your company develop a fair and safe workplace through proactive measures.