The Employees’ Retirement System of Rhode Island is suing board members and top executives at Pinterest, alleging that they engaged in or ignored discrimination at the company.
The $8.5 billion retirement system, which is a Pinterest shareholder, is suing them on behalf of the company itself and the Laborers’ District Council and Contractors Pension Fund of Ohio.
The complaint follows a tough year for Pinterest: Black executives Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks spoke out during the summer about being underpaid and discriminated against. Ex-chief operating officer Francoise Brougher filed a lawsuit soon after, alleging gender bias.
According to the retirement system’s complaint, filed on November 30, the company’s “white, male leadership clique” breached their fiduciary duty by “perpetrating or knowingly ignoring the long-standing and systemic culture of discrimination and retaliation at Pinterest.”
The retirement system alleged that this led to lawsuits, settlements, and a hit to the company’s reputation that ultimately affected Pinterest’s market value.
“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 spokesperson for the company said via email Wednesday.
In the wake of the Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd, Pinterest issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Soon after, Ozoma and Banks spoke out on Twitter, detailing underpayment and discrimination, the suit said. The two also alleged that Pinterest retaliated against them for speaking up about discrimination.
Ozoma shared that she had been the target of a doxxing campaign: Her cell phone, photo, name, and address were allegedly shared by a white male colleague with Project Veritas, which published the information online. She also said that because Pinterest assigned her and Banks improper pay levels, they missed out on stock options.
Soon after, news organizations like the Washington Post and the New York Times picked up the story, the complaint said. Inspired by Ozoma and Banks, Brougher filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Pinterest. Employees staged a walkout. Users signed a petition. Several more employees spoke out, according to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, the board members and executives knew about this discrimination. The defendants include Pinterest co-founder and CEO Benjamin Silbermann, co-founder and chief creative and design officer Evan Sharp, and several board members.
The lawsuit alleged that the board member defendants filed a misleading proxy statement in April because it did not mention that Brougher was discriminated against based on sex. The lawsuit also alleged that the defendants breached their fiduciary duty by either ignoring or engaging in discrimination.
The retirement system wants the board and executives to pay the company damages related to this alleged breach of fiduciary duty, and to cover attorneys’ fees. The retirement system is also asking Pinterest to make internal changes to protect the company, its employees, and shareholders from “repeating the harms” described in the lawsuit.
Since the gender and racial discrimination concerns came to light over the summer, Pinterest has implemented a series of changes in an effort to improve. The company hired Tyi McCray as its global head of inclusion and diversity and added two new board members, Andrea Wishom and Salaam Coleman Smith.
“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 spokesperson said via email.