Pinterest hires outside lawyer to investigate workplace culture

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Pinterest has hired a team of outside lawyers to investigate the company’s workplace culture following public complaints from former employees who say they faced racial discrimination.

The investigation will be led by Danielle Conley of the Washington-based law firm WilmerHale, according to an email chief executive officer Ben Silbermann sent to employees Monday. Conley, who will report to a special committee of Pinterest board members, helps lead her firm’s anti-discrimination practice and was previously the Associate Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice during President Barack Obama’s administration.

WilmerHale will “review and assess the way Pinterest evaluates, promotes, and compensates employees, and how the company responds to and investigates complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation,” Silbermann wrote Monday. “If the WilmerHale team reaches out to you, please prioritize following up.”

Two former employees from Pinterest’s policy team alleged earlier this month that they left the company over incidents of racial discrimination, including unfair pay. Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, both Black women, shared their work experiences publicly on Twitter. After current Pinterest employees expressed concern during a companywide Q&A, Silbermann announced plans for an outside review of Pinterest’s policies and pledged to add a person of color to the company’s board by the end of the year.

“What I’ve learned over the past few weeks is that parts of our culture are broken,” he told employees earlier this month. “Truthfully, I didn’t understand just how much work we have to do.”

Silbermann’s full memo is below:

"Hi Everyone,

Over the last few weeks we’ve been having important conversations about what steps we need to take to improve our culture. Thanks to so many of you for contributing. I’m encouraged by the broad participation as well as the desire to move quickly on the items outlined during our June 17th Q&A and my note to the team. To name a few positive first steps from the last couple weeks:

  • We strengthened our diverse slate requirement for recruiting as we work to improve representation, especially at senior levels.
  • We set clear goals to increase the representation of content we show to Pinners.
  • We are revamping our Unconscious Bias and Leading Inclusive Teams trainings. These expanded offerings will be available to every employee by the end of July.

These are just the first steps in a long journey. Thanks to everyone for personally committing to this work. As a reminder, all of the company and team-specific goals are due at the end of H2 planning. Progress against these goals will be reviewed just like any of our business OKRs.

Today, I want to share an additional important workstream. A Special Committee of the Pinterest Board of Directors has engaged Danielle Conley of WilmerHale to conduct a comprehensive and independent review of our policies and practices concerning discrimination, harassment, and other workplace issues. The WilmerHale team will also review and assess the way Pinterest evaluates, promotes, and compensates employees, and how the company responds to and investigates complaints of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

Danielle will report directly to this Special Committee of the Board to ensure independence. This is a good thing for Pinterest because it will provide us with the most objective assessment of where we are and the opportunities we have to improve our culture moving forward. I’m fully supportive of this independent evaluation as well as Danielle and the WilmerHale team.

Danielle is a partner in WilmerHale’s Washington D.C. office where she co-chairs the firm’s Anti-Discrimination Practice. She regularly conducts internal investigations regarding allegations of race and gender discrimination and other workplace culture issues for technology companies.

Danielle previously served as Associate Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice where she provided strategic counsel to senior government officials on a broad range of civil rights policy issues and managed some of DOJ’s most significant and high-profile civil rights litigation and enforcement actions.

If the WilmerHale team reaches out to you, please prioritize following up. This is important work that will help us make Pinterest better."

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