Pinterest Accused of Not Paying Female ‘Co-Creator’

SAN FRANCISCO — When Pinterest went public in 2019, Christine Martinez’s associates despatched congratulations. She had labored intently with the founders of the digital pinboard in its earliest days and her associates thought she would get wealthy alongside them.

But as Pinterest’s inventory worth rose, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez stated she realized she wouldn’t be compensated or credited for her contributions.

On Monday, she sued.

In a lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court, Ms. Martinez accused Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra, two of Pinterest’s three co-founders, of breach of implied contract, thought theft, unjust enrichment and unfair enterprise practices. Ms. Martinez had created Pinterest alongside Mr. Silbermann and Mr. Sciarra, the lawsuit stated, contributing concepts that had been “core organizing concepts,” resembling organizing pictures on boards and enabling e-commerce.

Ms. Martinez, 40, was by no means formally employed by Pinterest nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given inventory, although she stated Pinterest’s founders verbally agreed to compensate her many occasions.

Ms. Martinez argued that she and the founders had an implied contract, based mostly on their discussions. Pinterest even named a piece of its supply code after her, based on the criticism. And she was such shut associates with the co-founders that she introduced them each residence for Christmas and was a bridesmaid in Mr. Silbermann’s wedding ceremony.

Ben Silbermann, the chief government of Pinterest.Credit…Anastasiia Sapon for The New York TimesPaul Sciarra, a co-founder of Pinterest.Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“I always expected that when they could compensate me, they would,” she stated, including that she had been naïve. “There was never a doubt in my mind.”

Pinterest didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The lawsuit renews questions on whether or not Pinterest, which caters primarily to feminine customers, is hostile to girls and minorities in its office.

Last summer time, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, two former Pinterest staff, tweeted in regards to the pay disparities, retaliation and sexist, racist feedback they’d skilled on the firm. Shortly after, Francoise Brougher, Pinterest’s former chief working officer, sued the corporate for gender discrimination and retaliation.

In response, Pinterest staff staged a digital walkout final August, demanding the corporate improve the quantity of girls and minorities in its prime ranks and supply extra transparency round promotion ranges, retention and pay.

Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest worker, tweeted in regards to the pay disparities, retaliation and sexist and racist feedback she had skilled on the firm.Credit…Adria Malcolm for The New York Times

In December, the corporate agreed to a $22.5 million settlement with Ms. Brougher, together with a $2.5 million donation towards charities for girls and underrepresented minorities in tech. Pinterest shareholders then sued the corporate and its board over its office tradition.

Ms. Ozoma has helped sponsor the Silenced No More Act in California, which can broaden safety of staff who converse out about discrimination or harassment at work. It was just lately handed by the state legislature.

Ms. Martinez stated she was not shocked to see the headlines about Pinterest’s tradition and that she had been pissed off by the disconnect between the corporate’s male founders and its feminine customers.

“I’ve spent a lot of years being really confused about how it is that people believe that these three men created a product like this for women — that they understood women well enough,” she stated.

Starting in 2008, the yr earlier than Pinterest was based, Mr. Silbermann and Mr. Sciarra sought Ms. Martinez’s recommendation on a variety of ideas from its identify and options to its advertising and marketing technique and product street map, based on the lawsuit.

Ms. Martinez had studied inside design, created a way of life weblog and based LAMA Designs, an e-commerce start-up. Even although LAMA’s enterprise mannequin labored and was exhibiting promise, enterprise capitalists didn’t take her critically and he or she stated she struggled to lift cash.

Yet funding for Pinterest, based mostly on little greater than an thought and Mr. Silbermann’s and Mr. Sciarra’s credentials, got here simpler. Ms. Martinez stated she was keen to assist her associates.

“They had no marketing background or expertise in creating a product for women,” she stated. “My role was always to educate them.”

According to the lawsuit, Ms. Martinez gave the co-founders the concept of organizing pictures on “boards,” a core function of the location; created its name to motion phrase, “Pin it”; and established its important classes together with residence décor, trend and DIY. She additionally helped Mr. Silbermann persuade prime design and way of life bloggers to make use of Pinterest and put it on the market. She introduced him to conferences, gathered suggestions from the group and honed the pitch to them, she stated.

Ms. Martinez stated she solely realized she wouldn’t get compensated after Pinterest went public in 2019.

Soon after, she stated, a loss of life within the household induced her to mirror on her life. That emboldened her to talk up about Pinterest.

“I couldn’t take this to my grave,” she stated.