Ifeoma Ozoma, California's Silenced No More Act and the Value of Disclosing and Disparaging Toxic Tech Companies

Leigh Giangreco
Leigh Giangreco is a reporter covering culture, politics and news. Her work has appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and Washington City Paper.
Ifeoma Ozoma

Ifeoma Ozoma's first choice was not speaking out.

When she left her role as public policy manager at Pinterest in March 2020, she was presented with a non-disclosure agreement.

"I was pushed out of the company and presented with a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement," she told dot.LA, "and that was my only option for retaining health insurance and compensation right at the beginning of the pandemic."


But Ozoma would break that NDA a few months later, alleging that she and her Black coworkers faced racism and wage discrimination at the social media company. Her fight led her to team up with California State Senator Connie Leyva, who helped draft the Silenced No More Act, a bill that would prevent the use of NDAs in workplace situations involving any form of discrimination and harassment.

The Silenced No More Act is actually an expansion on another law drafted by Levya, the Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures (STAND) Act, which specifically addressed sex-based discrimination. The legislation passed from the Assembly Judiciary Committee in June and is now headed to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee for consideration.

dot.LA spoke with Ozoma about her work on the bill and the broader battle for tech workers' rights.

dot.LA: To start, can you explain what you did as one of Pinterest's public policy managers?

Ifeoma Ozoma: I led both our U.S. policy and the engagement with external experts at organizations like the WHO (World Health Organization), and I led a lot of the content safety development that came from those engagements with experts. All of the vaccine work that Pinterest was in the news for was my work. Pinterest was the first social platform to take definitive action against anti-vaccination content and groups.

And can you talk more about the discrimination you faced?

Leveling is used as a way to bring in women, particularly women of color, into roles where we're doing the same as, in my case, a white man who is being paid several times more than me. So leveling is what the company used to underpay me from the time I started. At tech companies, it means that women—and in my case, Black women—were brought in pre-IPO— because I was the second person on the public policy team—and given not even a fraction in shares of what my white male colleague was granted, making him a millionaire when the company IPO-ed and meaning I got next to nothing.

You've spoken out about this disparity publicly in the media and on Twitter. Have you faced retaliation from Pinterest?

Well, part of it is when I decided to go public, I knew that they could and they still can sue me because I'm still in violation of the contract that I signed. So, it's what all whistleblowers do: take a risk. That's what I've done and what I'm continuing to do is talk about it. At this point they probably feel like it's not worth a legal fight because if it went to a jury trial with the interviews I've done already, I don't think it would look so good for them in a jury. The only reason why I haven't been sued bankrupt is because they haven't decided to.

Despite the NDA, you came forward with another colleague. You both believed you would be covered by another California law that protects workers who have been discriminated against or harassed because of their gender. Why didn't that law protect you?

I can speak for myself. The law, CCP 1001, which came from the STAND Act, covered sex-based discrimination, harassment and assault. I had filed both internally and with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, race and gender discrimination and retaliation complaints going back over a year and so I was covered on the sex discrimination and retaliation. I was not covered on the race claims and there's no way to disentangle the two because the two are who I am.

And that's why I'm co-sponsoring the bill now that would fix that original law and expand it to cover all forms of discrimination and harassment recognized by the state of California, because no one should be treated differently based on what their identity is.

How did you connect with Senator Connie Leyva on the Silenced No More Act?

My attorney knew that I had worked specifically on engagement with state legislatures while I was at Pinterest, so he and I spoke about what it would look like to expand [the STAND Act]. There had been talk in 2020 about doing it but anything that wasn't COVID-related was pushed from the legislative calendar, and so for this year there was a conversation about bringing it back up again. So he connected me with the California Employment Lawyers Association, Equal Rights Advocates, and then we all connected with Senator Leyva's office. The group, along with Senator Leyva's office, have been working nonstop since [the bill] was introduced in February.

Who stands in opposition to the bill?

The [California] Chamber of Commerce and all of who they represent. Only one company has spoken out in opposition to the chamber to support the bill and that's Pinterest, funny enough, because they thought they could get some news coverage on the same day that my op-ed was published in the New York Times.

The bill sounds like a good deal for workers, but what about the shareholders? Doesn't an NDA protect valuable intellectual property?

Yeah, and this bill does nothing to touch that. Confidential IP has nothing to do with discrimination and harassment, unless you're saying that's a business secret, and I don't think any company lawyer would argue that publicly. So it's absolutely irrelevant and actually, shareholders — the smart ones — are already in support of whistleblower protections, because an NDA and a non-disparagement agreement that keep racism that was perpetuated by Ben, Charlie and their deputies secret — is that really helping Pinterest shareholders?

Even the Chamber dropped that argument, now they're just saying it's going to be difficult for employers, which is what they say about everything — including paying people. Slavery, I'm sure, was easier. This is not difficult for anyone except for those who are intent on not only getting away with discrimination, harassment and abuse but keeping it secret. Again, this bill doesn't have a punishment; if transparency is a punishment, you have to ask yourself what you're trying to keep secret.

If this gets passed in California, what's the impact for other states and potentially policy at the federal level?

There are other states that have substantive laws already on NDAs, all of them came up after #MeToo. None of them to my knowledge deal with non-disparagement agreements. Both are important to address, because the clauses in the non-disparagement agreements are so broad. That's not a decision that any individual should be making on their own, so I'm hoping that the bill as it's written influences future bills that are drafted in other states.

At the federal level, next to nothing is getting through Congress right now. If we can't pass voting protections for people, NDA protections I think would be a bit difficult. I'm not holding my breath on federal legislation for now. I'm focused instead on some of the efforts in other jurisdictions like in Ireland where most tech companies are headquartered internationally. I'm working with a senator there who introduced a bill last month that would address NDAs and secret settlements. Additionally, I'm working on a plan to engage shareholders on this policy work.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds


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