Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann announced Tuesday that the company is supporting a bill in California that would free workers of their non-disclosure agreements in situations where they have experienced workplace discrimination and harassment. The bill, which will have hearings in the state legislature today, is co-sponsored by Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest employee who came forward last year with allegations of pay discrimination and retaliation at the company, and has since written and spoken extensively about the use of NDAs in the tech industry.
"Regardless of what happens in the legislature, whether the bill moves forward or not, we're going to adopt the policies behind the proposed law," Silbermann wrote in a company email reviewed by Protocol. A Pinterest spokesperson confirmed the contents of the email.
The company's global head of communications, LeMia Jenkins, told Protocol that, effective immediately, the company will "not require employees to sign agreements that would prevent them from talking about their personal experiences at Pinterest after they leave." That doesn't, however, include NDAs that relate to trade secrets and confidential company information.
The news comes the same day that Ozoma published an op-ed in The New York Times alleging that her NDA at Pinterest was "designed to keep me quiet."
"For a long time, I hesitated to speak about the issues I experienced at Pinterest. I didn't want to be sued, and I hoped that the company would do the right thing and address the pay inequities and retaliation I faced," Ozoma wrote. "But it didn't."
Ozoma and her former Pinterest colleague Aerica Shimizu Banks came forward with their stories last summer, protected in part by an existing law in California passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement that allows workers to break their NDAs if they've experienced sexual harassment, assault or gender discrimination. Now, the two women are advocating for the passage of the Silenced No More Act, introduced by State Sen. Connie Leyva, which would extend those rights to people who have experienced all forms of discrimination. Pinterest employees are also organizing to voice their support for the bill at today's hearing.
On Twitter Tuesday, Ozoma took issue with Silbermann's email to the staff, particularly a portion which read: "While we've never required employees to sign agreements preventing them from talking about their personal experiences at Pinterest, adopting this policy furthers our accountability to each of you."
While employees aren't generally required to sign NDAs, in most cases, and in Ozoma and Banks's case, such agreements are offered in exchange for severance. "The reality is that when you are faced with refusing health insurance/rent or signing an unethical agreement, most people cannot afford to say no," Ozoma told Protocol.
She said she welcomes Pinterest's support and that of "every other corporation that acknowledges that coercing silence after instances of discrimination, harassment, and abuse, is wrong and anathema to American speech values."
Ozoma also called on the company to release all former employees from existing NDAs as well.