Pinterest settles charges with US regulator

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Emily Beech and Mike Murphy of the anti-discrimination firm Conduit offered their help to Pinterest after a complaint.

Pinterest has agreed to settle discrimination claims brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Pinterest, an online scrapbooking site, will pay $50m (£38m) to settle charges that it discriminated against Hispanic employees.

The company will also make an additional $800,000 in recommendations for bias reforms.

The company employs more than 1,800 people across 19 countries.

The $50m will be paid out to the EEOC to compensate African American and Hispanic workers.

How did Pinterest respond?

A Pinterest spokeswoman said the company would be “fully cooperating” with the EEOC to improve their hiring practices.

The FTC is investigating the company for claims that it discriminated against employees who expressed thoughts about diversity and equality, such as advocating open, supportive workplaces.

Pinterest has also set up a group to help encourage diversity among the team, with close to 50 senior employees and prominent volunteers working to “significantly improve the diversity in our company”, the spokeswoman said.

“As one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, this is a critical next step to ensure we are tapping the talents of the broadest range of people.”

What allegations were made?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a complaint against Pinterest in February 2018, charging the company with unlawfully requiring qualified, Latino candidates to meet quotas, but excluding other groups.

The agency accused Pinterest of using a “paycheck test” to evaluate candidates applying for a series of open jobs.

Pinterest’s “paycheck test” asks candidates to provide salary information by number of hours worked over the previous year.

While the test is not illegal, being asked to reveal salary information is discriminatory if done to unfairly discriminate against certain workers.

The FTC complaint said that Pinterest was concerned only with finding the lowest paid candidate, even if he or she was able to work efficiently, good at leadership and had the relevant industry experience.

A Pinterest spokesman said: “While we strongly disagreed with the [settlement] allegations, in order to resolve all aspects of this matter we chose to make a deal with the EEOC.”

What has Pinterest agreed to?

Under the agreement, Pinterest will recruit and train on bias, and it will have to submit to an annual compliance review.

The company will establish an Advisory Board to meet with, and frequently review, staff at work.

It will also revise its equal employment opportunity policies to stop using performance goals or other goals to define merit.

Under the agreement, Pinterest is also committing to having a formal focus group at the start of every hiring decision.

Photo caption Pinterest uses a “paycheck test” to evaluate candidates

“By making meaningful changes in its policies and practices, Pinterest is demonstrating that it can indeed lead by example, which is exactly what we have been seeking.” Daniel J Arthur, deputy director of the EEOC’s San Francisco office

On GitHub, a firm that facilitates open source software, employees recently proposed that the company hire a diversity manager, while holding open discussions about the issue.

As part of its investigation, the FTC is reportedly assessing whether Pinterest will violate its Non-Discrimination Policy.

The investigation could result in a civil penalty.

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