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Take a Hard Look at the Nondisclosure Agreement

By and  |  March 10, 2021 10:01 AM PST
Photo: Illustration by Josh Brill

Last June, a former Pinterest employee named Ifeoma Ozoma and her colleague Aerica Shimizu Banks realized their experiences working at the company revealed a dramatic gap between its rhetoric and the reality of its culture. They believed they had been underpaid in comparison with their white colleagues, and they had also faced racist comments. They were retaliated against when they raised complaints, according to Ozoma and Banks.

They had both signed nondisclosure agreements when they left their employment. That meant they risked legal action from Pinterest—which didn’t respond to The Information’s requests for comment about the allegations—and a curtailment of future employment options in tech if they came forward. Nonetheless, they chose to proceed, going public with their experience of gender and racial discrimination at the company.

By making public their experiences, Ozoma and Banks joined a growing number of people who might be termed “conscientious objectors” to highly restrictive NDAs. In 2017, a group of former employees of the Weinstein Company articulated this philosophy as they spoke out about sexual harassment: “We know that in writing this we are in open breach of the [NDAs] in our contracts. But our former boss is in open violation of his contract with us—the employees—to create a safe place for us to work.”

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