Bloomberg reported that Pinterest Inc. must face a lawsuit from a digital marketing strategist who says she helped conceive the social media platform, a California judge ruled. According to Bloomberg, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Seabolt denied the company’s motion to dismiss the suit, but he eliminated co-founder Paul Sciarra as a defendant because he left Pinterest a decade ago.
Bloomberg reported that Christine Martinez sued the company in September, saying she contributed key ideas to the platform but was never compensated by founders Bill Silbermann and Sciarra. According to her complaint, Oakland resident Martinez was friends with Silbrermann when he asked her to “salvage a failed shopping app” that later became Pinterest.
She says she developed some of the main concepts for the platform, including features that allowed users to create “pinboards” reflecting their cultural tastes and created a marketing plan to enlist bloggers to recruit users. Martinez claims she was so integral to the site’s creation that Silbermann and Sciarra embedded her name in the platform’s code.
The New York Times provided some background information (in 2021). The New York Times reported that when Pinterest went public in 2019, Christine Martinez’s friends sent congratulations. She had worked closely with the founders of the digital pinboard in its earliest days, and her friends through she would get rich alongside them. But as Pinterest’s stock price rose, turning its founders into billionaires, Ms. Martinez realized she would not be compensated or credited for her contributions, she said.
According to The New York Times, Ms. Martinez was never formally employed by Pinterest, nor did she ask for a contract. She was not given stock, though she said Pinterest’s founders had verbally agreed to compensate her many times. The New York Times also reported that other women who were former Pinterest employees wrote on Twitter about the pay disparities, retaliation, and sexist, racist comments they had experienced at the company. Pinterest’s former chief operating, Francoise Brougher, sued Pinterest, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation.
Engadget reported that Ms. Martinez filled a lawsuit against Pinterest in September. In December, the company filed a motion to dismiss it. Pinterest argued that Ms. Martinez’s claimed were too old to fall within the statute of limitations. Judge Seabolt disagreed. He stated that Ms. Martinez “sufficiently alleges” the she and the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation. Pinterest went public in 2019, an event that Seabolt deemed “transformative” and his view sealed the company’s obligation to pay Ms. Martinez.
These kinds of lawsuits are important. They serve as a way to prevent employers from intentionally discriminating against the women they hired. It makes absolutely no sense to me why the Pinterest founders agreed to deferred compensation – and then (perhaps intentionally) failed to pay Ms. Martinez the money they owed her for the work she did on Pinterest.