HCBE Faculty Articles

The “nicest place on the Internet”? Trouble at Pinterest, Inc



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The CASE Journal



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Research methodology

Data for the case came from public sources, including legal proceedings, court filings and Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The authors perused hundreds of court documents and identified 28 that were most relevant to this case. The authors also used press interviews with the women highlighted in the case. The authors have no relationship with the company and no one from the company has reviewed the information presented in this case. As the case is drawn from sworn legal testimonies, interviews and related documents in the public domain, the authors did not have to seek approval for publication.

Case overview/synopsis

Pinterest touted itself as “the nicest place on the Internet.” It had an almost 80% female user base and purported to have an inclusive culture that embraced diversity. However, in June 2020, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, two former female employees of color violated their non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to publicly accuse Pinterest of racial and gender discrimination. In August 2020, Pinterest’s former Chief Operating Officer, Francoise Brougher, filed a lawsuit charging the company with gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination, and authored a public blog post titled, The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity, detailing her own experience with the company’s discriminatory culture. Three days later 236 of Pinterest’s 2,545 employees staged a virtual walkout and 445 employees signed a petition in an attempt to change Pinterest’s policies and culture. The case provides a brief overview of Pinterest, including its mission, values and organizational culture, and details several incidents and complaints by female and minority employees. The case questions whether employee complaints are a relatively narrow issue involving disgruntled former employees who did not fit at the organization or a much broader issue involving discrimination and managerial neglect in creating and maintaining a nondiscriminatory, inclusive culture. Students are encouraged to evaluate the situation in which Co-Founder, Board Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Ben Silbermann finds himself, evaluate the actions taken and decide if Silbermann should take any additional actions to address the discrimination claims and ensure a positive culture for all employees.

Complexity academic level

This case is appropriate for graduate and advanced undergraduate level courses in organizational behavior, human resource management and business law or any course where discrimination and workplace culture are discussed.



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