Christine Martinez, a designer who says she helped Pinterest founders conceive the concept for the site, is suing two of the platform’s three male cofounders for neither crediting nor compensating her for her contributions.
In Monday’s suit, Martinez says cofounders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra—close friends of hers—made verbal agreements to compensate her for “core” concepts, which included her ideas about organizing the site, naming its categories, and enabling online purchases. But Silbermann and Sciarra never employed Martinez, offered her stock options, or asked her to sign a contract for her work. The suit accuses the two cofounders of conducting unfair business practices, breaching an implied contract, unjustly enriching themselves, and breaching an implied contract.
In an interview with the New York Times, Martinez said, in retrospect, she feels naïve for believing that she would get her fair due. “I always expected that when they could compensate me, they would,” Martinez told the outlet. “There was never a doubt in my mind.” But nonetheless: “I couldn’t take this to my grave,” she said.
Martinez’s suit arrives just six months after the company settled a gender discrimination lawsuit, paying out $22.5 million to former chief operating officer Françoise Brougher. Brougher accused Pinterest’s executives of retaliating against her after she confronted higher-ups about what she called “the rampant discrimination, hostile work environment, and misogyny that permeates Pinterest.” Silbermann was among those explicitly named in Brougher’s suit as well; in court documents, she alleged that he’d “disinvited” from important meetings.
Brougher’s allegations revealed that Pinterest—a platform made up overwhelmingly of women—may not necessarily be as friendly to its women staff as it was to its women users. What Martinez alleges, if true, helps explain how a platform founded by three men could cater so well to women’s interests in the first place. Monday’s suit argues that they would not have known how were it not for Martinez.
“They had no marketing background or expertise in creating a product for women,” Martinez told the Times of Silbermann and Sciarra. “My role was always to educate them.”