Ex COO of Pinterest Sues Company for Wrongful Termination

Former Chief Operating Officer of Pinterest, Françoise Brougher, has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging gender discrimination and wrongful termination.

Brougher says she was fired from the company in April suddenly and without cause and holds it “accountable for discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), and the Labor Code,” according to a Tuesday filing in San Francisco Superior Court.

Pinterest is aimed at women, and according to the latest statistics from the company, it has 400 million active monthly users, mostly women. The company’s executive board is entirely made up of men!

“Ironically, even though Pinterest markets itself to women as a source of lifestyle inspiration, the company leadership team is male-dominated, and gender-biased attitudes are prevalent,” the lawsuit says.

Pinterest Sued by ex COO

Pinterest logo on facade of social media startup headquarters campus building in SOMA neighborhood – San Francisco, California, USA.

Brougher makes many allegations of discrimination, ranging from a compensation package much lesser than her peers, a hostile work environment to sidelining in key decision making.

Pinterest Sued by ex COO

She said she was fired by CEO Ben Silbermann when she protested against her treatment. Brougher has written an open letter in Medium listing her treatment at Pinterest.

She wrote, “I have always been a private person, but I am opening up about my experience because if someone of my privilege and seniority is fired for speaking out about these issues, the situation is likely far worse for people earlier in their careers.

“The company is steered by men with little input from female executives,” she said in the post. “Pinterest’s female executives, even at the highest levels, are marginalized, excluded, and silenced.”

Brougher was offered backloaded equity grants on her hire, and she assumed that it was the standard for executives. Her equity grant stipulated that only 10% of shares vested in the first year; followed by 20% the second year; 30% the third year; and 40% the fourth year.

But she later realized that her male peers did not have their equity backloaded. She brought the matter to the attention of Silbermann and her compensation was adjusted.

Françoise Brougher Sued Pinterest

After Pininterest went public, Brougher was sidelined and kept out of major decisions and not invited to board meetings. She alleges that she started getting critical feedback and assessments.

The lawsuit says Silbermann criticized Brougher for “not being collaborative and told her that she did not have consistently healthy cross-functional relationships.” When Brougher asked him for more details, she claims “he told her to keep quiet, saying she should ‘be mindful’ of how she acted in a group setting.”

Brougher has also cited the chief financial officer of the company, Todd Morgenfeld, as being disrespectful, aggressive, and confrontational. When she sought mediation from the human resource department of the company, the matter was treated as a potential legal issue, and the in-house counsel was brought in. The CEO treated the matter as trivial and degenerated it into a gender issue.

She was finally fired in April and ordered to hand over her work to Morgenfeld. She was also asked to tell her team that she was leaving on her own.

Brougher claims her termination cost her “tens of millions of dollars in lost earnings and equity compensation.”

Brougher’s case against Pinterest comes two months after two Black former employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, accused the company of racial discrimination, unequal pay and retaliation.

In a statement to The New York Times, a Pinterest representative said the company is conducting an independent review of its culture, policies, and practices. 

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Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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