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Pinterest overhauls harassment policy following discrimination complaints

Law firm WilmerHale conducted a five-month investigation into the company culture

Pinterest Takes Stock Public On New York Stock Exchange Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A five-month investigation into Pinterest’s company culture published on Wednesday recommends broad changes to how the firm handles workplace conflicts, including harassment and retaliation.

Produced by the law firm WilmerHale, the report details how the company can improve its workplace conditions and prevent discrimination, specifically recommending the creation of an internal ombudsman’s office that can field employee complaints. The law firm spoke with 350 current and former Pinterest employees over the course of its five-month investigation.

Pinterest’s board has already unanimously voted to adopt the recommendations, which were shared with employees on Wednesday and posted publicly on the company’s website.

In recent months, a number of Pinterest employees have come forward with complaints about the company’s culture, some of which have led to lawsuits against the company. Earlier this week, Pinterest settled a gender discrimination lawsuit with former COO Franćoise Brougher, paying $20 million to Brougher and her attorneys as well as an additional $2.5 million to philanthropies supporting underrepresented groups in tech. In part, WilmerHale’s recommendations are likely intended to forestall future litigation and limit Pinterest’s liability from any complaints that emerge.

The report begins with a section titled “How We Got Here.” It refers obliquely to allegations made by two employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who previously worked on Pinterest’s policy team. In June, both women spoke out about racism and sexism at the company.

Pinterest should establish a centralized workplace investigations team to follow up on employee complaints, the report says. “It is critical that investigations of workplace concerns are thorough, follow clear and standardized procedures, and are conducted with empathy and care,” it adds. “This includes, for example, promptly responding to employees when they file a complaint, investigating as confidentially as possible, and emphasizing, in communications during an investigation, Pinterest’s prohibition against retaliation.”

The report also recommends that Pinterest’s process for disciplining employees should be consistent: “Pinterest should formalize its existing calibrations practice so that investigators are recommending similar outcomes for similar conduct across the Company and, specifically, that its policies and standards apply equally to all members of the Pinterest community, including managers and Senior Leaders.”

Additionally, the report calls for an “escalations team” to investigate particularly sensitive issues raised by employees. “Pinterest should also revise its escalation protocol to clarify which cases should be promptly escalated and to whom — such as the General Counsel, Chief Human Resources Officer, members of the Executive Leadership Team, or the Board — regardless of whether they warrant investigation by outside counsel or an independent investigator.”

Another recommendation calls attention to Pinterest’s lack of a standalone drugs and alcohol policy that would dictate employee conduct at work events. Such a policy should enforce managerial behavior around making employees who don’t drink feel comfortable at work events in the presence of alcohol and also emphasize that alcohol does not excuse employee misconduct, the report says.

Notably, the report says Pinterest needs to “address off-site conduct,” meaning that any policy changes going forward need to take into account any behaviors that may “impact working relationships and the broader working environment, regardless of where it occurs (including on social media).”

In a statement emailed to The Verge, a Pinterest spokesperson said: “Pinterest is fully committed to making the changes recommended by the Special Committee of the Board. We value our employees and know it’s our responsibility to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for everyone at Pinterest.”