Social Media Platform Pinterest Accused of Discrimination by Black Employees

Evan Sharp
Ben Margot/AP

A recent report from Fast Company describes how two black employees at social media platform Pinterest have gone public with stories of pay disparity and discrimination which they believe reveals a wider issue of “pay leveling” across Silicon Valley.

A report from Fast Company titled “Discrimination charges at Pinterest reveal a hidden Silicon Valley hiring problem,” outlines how two black employees at social platform Pinterest have gone public with stories of both pay disparity and discrimination at the firm.

Ifeoma Ozoma joined Pinterest in July 2018 as the company’s new public policy and social impact manager. In September, Ozoma saw the public policy and legal team’s “level chart” which lays out “role expectations” for employees at each of the five salary levels for the job family. Ozoma discovered that her level was second to lowest, she then learned that the head of public policy who was her manager but worked with Ozoma as a partner was at the highest level.

Fast Company writes:

“I immediately started asking questions, like ‘Whoa, whoa, you have me at second to lowest rung on this chart even though I’m leading all of this work?’” Ozoma says. “I’m half of the team, I’m doing half of the work of the team, and I’m in a very junior level when it comes to pay and my pay bracket.”

Ozoma asked her manager to address her level, but she says she was initially told that her current compensation package was the best the company could do. After months of trying to get her level changed, Ozoma finally hired a lawyer, who began to argue that she should have been hired at a level six, two rungs above the level four at which she was being paid. Once her lawyer got involved and began advocating for additional compensation, stock options, and back pay, Ozoma was told she didn’t have enough years of experience—a criteria that does not appear on the level chart, which Fast Company has confirmed. Ozoma describes the difference in compensation between these levels as “exponential,” especially because much of the pay package comes in the form of stock options—which quickly became very valuable when Pinterest IPOed in April 2019. In July 2019, she filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), alleging pay discrimination based on sex and race.

On June 15th of 2020, Ozoma went public and shared her story on Twitter after seeing Pinterest’s statement in response to the protests across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Pinterest expressed the company’s “solidarity” with the Black Lives Matter movement as well as its “commitment to taking action.”

A fellow colleague of Ozoma, Aerica Shimizu Banks who worked as a public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest, also came forward with similar allegations against Pinterest. Both Banks and Ozoma quit their jobs on the same day in May.

Fast Company writes:

“Once I saw the chart, after I was hired, I was concerned that I was not leveled appropriately and was willing to dismiss those concerns if I were promoted,” Banks says. “My manager avoided answering my questions about promotion for weeks, thus denying me the opportunity to address my concerns . . . Consistently I went through all proper internal channels on all my complaints and was met with denial and dismissal. It was time to go external.”

Like Ozoma, Banks filed a complaint with the DFEH in January 2020, alleging pay discrimination based on sex and race as well as retaliation for reporting the discrimination. She received the right to sue in February 2020. Both complaints, which Fast Company has reviewed, allege that Ozoma and Banks were doing substantially similar work to their manager, a white man, but were both paid at lower levels.

Pinterest has denied the allegations, saying in a statement that the company conducted an internal investigation of the claims made against them and said “we’re confident both employees were treated fairly.” A short while later, CEO Ben Silbermann acknowledged that the company needed to do better in an internal letter and described plans to add a person of color to the company’s board.

Read the full report at Fast Company here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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