Pinterest shareholders are suing the company over allegations of discrimination against women and employees of color
- The lawsuit, filed Thursday by a Rhode Island pension fund, claimed Pinterest executives and board members "personally engaged in, facilitated or knowingly ignored" discrimination and retaliation against those who spoke out about the company's "white, male leadership clique."
- Pinterest is already facing a
gender discriminationlawsuit and came in for intense criticism in recent months from current and former employees, starting in June when two Black women quit and publicly spoke out about negative experiences at the company.
Pinterest shareholders have sued the company, as well as its top executives and board of directors, accusing them of harming investors by creating and perpetuating a culture of racial and sex discrimination.
"Pinterest's executives and board members personally engaged in, facilitated or knowingly ignored the discrimination and retaliation against those who spoke up and challenged the Company's White, male leadership clique," according to the complaint.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in a federal district court in California by the Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI), which manages $8.5 billion in assets on behalf of around 60,000 current and retired state employees.
Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, CFO Todd Morgenfeld, and chief design officer Evan Sharp are named as defendants in the lawsuit, as are board members Jeffrey Jordan, Jeremy Levine, Gokul Rajaram, Fredric Reynolds, Michelle Wilson, and Leslie Kilgore (Silbermann and Sharp serve on the board as well).
The lawsuit alleges that Pinterest's executives and board members breached their fiduciary duty to investors by failing to address claims of illegal workplace bias even when presented with evidence.
Silbermann "repeatedly placed himself before the Company, surrounding himself with yes-men and marginalizing women who dared to challenge Pinterest's White, male leadership clique," according to the complaint.
The lawsuit claims that Wilson and Kilgore, both members of the board's compensation committee, did nothing to monitor for unequal pay, despite knowing at least since March 2019 about employees' claims of unequal pay. It claims they allowed "alleged perpetrators to investigate their own alleged misconduct and did nothing to ensure that the discriminatory practices ended."
According to the complaint, chief design officer Sharp was told of multiple complaints from employees of color about Pinterest's legal and HR department, "but did nothing."
"Pinterest's leadership and Board take their fiduciary duties seriously and are committed to continuing our efforts to help ensure that Pinterest is a place where all of our employees feel included and supported," a Pinterest spokesperson told Business Insider, adding that the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Pinterest has faced intense backlash from current and former employees and civil rights groups in recent months over its treatment of women and people of color.
As Business Insider's Taylor Nicole Rogers and Julie Bort previously reported, former Pinterest employees described a traumatic workplace where managers humiliate employees until they cry, Black people feel alienated, and the toxic culture "eats away at your soul."
Pinterest's former COO, Françoise Brougher, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company in August.
Brougher said in the suit that she was fired following a heated exchange with CFO Morgenfeld, after he allegedly made disparaging comments about her in front of peers and gave her feedback that she viewed as sexist, complaining she wasn't "collaborative enough."
In August, more than 200 Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout and 450 signed an online petition demanding pay transparency and equality as well as increased diversity at the upper levels of the company. Other media outlets, including The Verge, have reported additional accounts of racism and sexism at the company.
Following public outcry and litigation, Pinterest took several steps to address the issues, including adding its first two Black board members, hiring a new head of diversity, and commissioning an independent review of its culture.
"We believe the actions we've initiated as well as the ongoing independent review regarding our culture, policies, and practices will help us achieve our goal of building a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for everyone," the Pinterest spokesperson said.
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