Pinterest has paid $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination suit from former executive Francoise Brougher, who claimed she was fired after speaking up

Francoise Brougher
Francoise Brougher, former COO of Pinterest, filed a lawsuit against the company in August. Now, it will pay $22.5 million to settle the claims.

  • Pinterest on Monday paid $22.5 million to end a lawsuit brought by Francoise Brougher, its former chief operating officer, who alleged gender discrimination.
  • Brougher claimed she was paid less than male colleagues and that she was excluded from meetings.
  • Pinterest admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement. It and Brougher will jointly donate $2.5 million of the settlement to programs supporting women and underrepresented communities in tech.
  • Brougher and her attorneys will receive $20 million.
  • “I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher said in an interview with the Times. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Social media platform Pinterest on Monday paid $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by Francoise Brougher, its former chief operating officer.

After two years in the COO role, Brougher suddenly left Pinterest in April, without explanation. Four months later, she filed a lawsuit against the company in a San Francisco court, claiming she “was treated unfairly because of my gender.”

Brougher said in the lawsuit that she was paid less than her male peers, that the company excluded her from meetings, and that she wasn’t invited to attend the corporate road show in the runup to Pinterest’s IPO in 2019.

The photo-sharing site and Brougher said Monday they planned to jointly donate $2.5 million of the settlement to organizations that support women and underrepresented minorities in tech, with a focus on education, funding and advocacy, per The New York Times. The donations are expected to be made by the end of 2020.

Brougher and her attorneys will receive $20 million.

In the suit, Brougher, 55, claimed she was fired following a heated exchange with Pinterest’s chief financial officer, Todd Morgenfeld, about her treatment at the company.

The lawsuit said Morgenfeld made disparaging comments about her in front of colleagues and gave her feedback that she considered sexist, saying she wasn’t “collaborative enough.”

After she complained about Morgenfeld’s comments to the head of human resources, and to CEO Ben Silbermann, Brougher said Silbermann fired her over a video call.

A Pinterest spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that the company is investing $2.5 million in programs to advance women and underrepresented communities in tech.

The company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement.

“Francoise welcomes the meaningful steps Pinterest has taken to improve its workplace environment and is encouraged that Pinterest is committed to building a culture that allows all employees to feel included and supported,” Pinterest said in a joint statement with Brougher.

“I’m glad Pinterest took this very seriously,” Brougher said in an interview with the Times. “I’m hoping it’s a first step in creating a better work environment there.”

Brougher is one of the most prominent female tech executives to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against a former company.

Pinterest’s feuds in 2020

This isn’t the first time Pinterest has been criticized for alleged discrimination in the workplace.

Pinterest shareholders sued the company, its top executives, and board of directors on December 2 over allegations of discrimination against women and employees of color.

The lawsuit claimed top executives failed to address claims of workplace bias by doing nothing to monitor unequal pay.

“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 at the time. They said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

In August, more than 200 Pinterest employees staged a virtual walkout and 450 signed an online petition demanding pay transparency and equality, and increased diversity in senior levels of the company.

Pinterest in August added its first two Black board members, hired a new head of diversity, and commissioned an independent review of its workplace culture.

Read more: Pinterest abandoned plans for a big new office project in San Francisco, but experts say staying in the city has several major advantages

In June, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two Black women, publicly resigned from Pinterest. They said they faced retaliation and humiliation, and were passed over for promotion.

Pinterest told Business Insider: “We took these issues seriously and conducted a thorough investigation when they were raised, and we’re confident both employees were treated fairly. We want each and every one of our employees at Pinterest to feel welcomed, valued, and respected.”

It added that “we’re committed to advancing our work in inclusion and diversity by taking action at our company and on our platform. In areas where we, as a company, fall short, we must and will do better.” 

The same month, Business Insider talked to 11 former employees who said Pinterest was a toxic and difficult place to work. Some Black former employees who worked on Pinterest’s ad-sales team said they were fired or “pushed out” of the company without any explanation.

Other employees said they were yelled at by managers in front of colleagues, which made them feel humiliated and upset.

The same week, CEO Silbermann acknowledged that some of Pinterest’s “culture is broken” and said he was “embarrassed” that he didn’t understand the “depth of the hardship and hurt” employees went through.

Read the original article on Business Insider