Pinterest agrees to settle discrimination accusations

MILLWOOD, N.Y. — Pinterest, the social media discovery site, has agreed to settle discrimination allegations in its financial product for the benefit of female users and other minorities.

The site will now require its staffers to take courses in “social equity,” which is “educational support and training for employees whose work focuses on diversity and equity.”

The Pinterest settlement comes more than a year after Google, Twitter and LinkedIn all reached similar agreements with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to The Washington Post. The focus of the training is said to involve more sensitivity training on how technology could affect people’s lives, along with more discussions on promoting more inclusive views on issues that matter to people.

Pinterest was accused of discriminating against women and people of color with its “Financial Asset Manager” product for multiple years, including the 2016 to 2017 calendar year.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Pinterest’s Financial Asset Manager “was the default and the only graphical product with settings associated with offering users access to binary options and allowing investors to select their limits and spend more than their budget at that time.” As such, the location information and spending behavior for the product’s user base might have been disproportionately influenced by members who identified themselves as women, people of color, and white.

The legal case stems from several complaints that a user with a racial, ethnic or national origin minority was not allowed to spend more than $500 in a month, which wasn’t always possible when he applied for a job. In fact, he wasn’t even given a chance to explain why his budget was too small to spend more than the stated limit. Instead, the user said he was notified that he wasn’t allowed to spend any more than the initial investment from the employer. He ended up spending less than $200 within the month.

“An employer does not have to prove that an employee specifically targeted is a woman or a person of color, or that the employer is consciously and objectively biased in order to be held liable,” the complaint stated.

It appears that Pinterest responded to the complaints quickly and has taken steps to curb the problem.

“We have improved the service to protect people’s privacy and provide more transparency about users’ spending behaviors,” a Pinterest spokesperson said in a statement, which noted that the company has created “governed and non-identifiable” spending limits for users.

But despite the improvements, the EEOC claimed that it found substantial evidence that had allowed it to conclude Pinterest had discriminated against many of its users based on their race, gender, age, national origin, family status, or sexual orientation.

“Pinterest created its tool by offering arbitrary control choices, which could disadvantage a user because of their gender, race, or national origin,” the complaint stated. “Pinterest had no valid basis for restricting access, other than its own desire to limit the activity of users who are less likely to invest.”

The two sides didn’t come to a deal before the legal deadline to file a lawsuit or the five-year statute of limitations had expired, according to The Washington Post. But Tuesday, Pinterest announced that it agreed to settle with the EEOC.

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