Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest employee who alleged racial and gender discrimination at the company, is co-leading new legislation with California State Senator Connie Leyva and others to empower those who experience workplace discrimination and/or harassment. Introduced today, the Silenced No More Act (SB 331) would prevent the use of non-disclosure agreements in workplace situations involving all forms of discrimination and harassment.
“It is unacceptable for any employer to try to silence a worker because he or she was a victim of any type of harassment or discrimination—whether due to race, sexual orientation, religion, age or any other characteristic,” Levya said in a statement. “SB 331 will empower survivors to speak out—if they so wish—so they can hold perpetrators accountable and hopefully prevent abusers from continuing to torment and abuse other workers.”
This proposed bill would expand the current protections workers have through the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures Act, also authored by Levya, that went into effect 2019. Ozoma, along with former coworker Aerica Shimizu Banks, came forward with claims of both racial and gender discrimination last year. They eventually settled with Pinterest, but the STAND Act technically only protected them for speaking out about gender discrimination. This new bill would ensure workers are also protected when speaking out about racial discrimination.
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“It was a legal gamble,” Ozoma told TechCrunch about coming forward with claims of both racial and gender discrimination, despite having signed an NDA. Pinterest could’ve decided to sue both Ozoma and Banks, Ozoma said, but that would’ve required the company to admit wrongdoing.
“Technically, we weren’t [supposed to talk about racial discrimination] and that’s what most companies bank on,” she said.
It’s a long road ahead for the bill, which needs to be passed by the legislature and ultimately signed into law by CA Governor Gavin Newsom, but it would represent a monumental shift in the tech industry, if passed.
“It would be huge and not just for tech, but for your industry as well,” she told me. “I believe that we don’t have real progress unless we approach things intersectionally and that’s the lesson from all of us.”