Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Against Pinterest Ends in Largest Settlement Ever
Social media firm Pinterest paid US$22.5 million (Rs. 1.7 billion) to settle former Chief Operating Officer Francoise Brougher’s gender discrimination claims. This is the largest publicized payout of its kind to date, marking a “seismic shift in attitudes towards gender discrimination,” according to an employment lawyer who did not work on the case.
Pinterest is an online photo-sharing organization whose users are mostly women. In August, Brougher filed a lawsuit that accused the organization of excluding her from meetings (and later of firing her) because she pushed for equal pay and raised concerns about a colleague’s sexist comments. Brougher said that her firing had “solidified Pinterest’s unwelcoming environment for women and minorities.”
Brougher filed the case after two Black employees also brought forth claims about Pinterest’s lack of sensitivity and discriminatory work practices. Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks spoke out about racism, unequal pay, and unwelcome work atmospheres while they worked at Pinterest. Ozoma also dealt with doxxing, when a white male Pinterest engineer released her personal information online.
These accusations, and a blog post by Brougher detailing her ordeal, lead to a 200-employee virtual walkout from Pinterest’s offices, and shareholders filed several lawsuits due to the organization’s toxic work culture.
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Pinterest called the public payout part of a broader strategy to “improve its culture.” As part of the settlement, by the end of the year, US$2.5 million (Rs. 184 million) will be donated to charities that support women and minorities in tech with education, funding, and advocacy.
David Lowe, who represented Brougher, told the New York Times that the settlement’s value also lies in its public announcement and charitable component. While Pinterest did not admit to any liability, but the public announcement of the settlement holds the organization accountable in a way a private, more expensive settlement cannot.
Sharon Vinick, an employment lawyer who worked on a similar case, told the New York Times that the settlement reflected the “seismic shift in attitudes towards gender discrimination,” and that now, companies will take gender discrimination claims seriously rather than dismissing them as claims “that can be settled for ‘nuisance value.’”