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There are some new laws designed to prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements in workplace situations that involve all forms of discrimination and harassment. That would be huge for the tech industry, where NDAs in severance agreements have become commonplace.
In the meantime, All Raise, Coursera and Niantic announced some new initiatives to increase the variety of technologies.
I also got an early look at a story I’m working on on the pipeline myth. There’s a lot more to talk about, so let’s get started.
New laws aim to get rid of NDAs in cases of harassment or discrimination
Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest employee who allegedly committed racial and gender discrimination within the company, is working with California Senator Connie Leyva and others to lead new laws to empower those who have been discriminated against / or experienced workplace harassment. The Silenced No More Act (SB 331) would prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements in workplace situations that involve all forms of discrimination and harassment.
“It was a legal gamble,” Ozoma told TechCrunch that despite signing an NDA, he alleged both racial and gender-based discrimination. Pinterest could have chosen to sue both Ozoma and Banks, Ozoma said, but the company would have had to admit wrongdoing to do so.
Meredith Whittaker, Faculty Director at AI Now and Co-Organizer of Google Walkout at SB 331
I also met Whittaker who said this type of legislation was absolutely necessary:
From a structural point of view, it is really obvious that we are not going to change toxic, discriminatory technical environments without naming the problems. We have decades of failed DEI PR, decades of people blaming the pipeline, and decades of brilliant people like Ifeoma, Aerica, and Timnite harassed and evicted from these environments. And often people cannot talk about their experiences so that the deep toxicity of these environments – as built into the structural operations of these companies and workplaces – is not broadcast.
Pipeline Problem Considerations
My conversation with Whittaker resulted in my becoming Dr. Joy met Lisi Rankin, a research director on gender, race and power in artificial intelligence at the AI Now Institute. She is actively researching the history of the pipeline problem and took some time to speak to me about it. I’m not done with the story yet, but here’s a little taste:
The very high level view is that people have been talking about a pipeline problem in some form or another since the 1970s, ”said Rankin. “And before that, it was often like a quote, a human resource issue, focusing on who is doing a PhD in a field or who has a master’s degree or who has elite jobs in a field. But that focus is always on individuals. It’s about persecuting people, not institutions and not structures. So I think it continues to be a convenient excuse for a wide variety of sins because when you talk about a pipeline it looks like in the United States all things are the same and we just have to find a way around keep people in it But the truth is, when we think of a STEM pipeline, we’re not talking about that education in the United States is by no means the same from birth.
Ex-Salesforce manager claims microaggression and inequality
Cynthia Perry, a former senior design research manager at Salesforce who left earlier this month, posted her resignation letter on LinkedIn detailing her negative treatment at the company. In it, Perry, a black woman, claims she experienced “countless microaggressions and inequalities” during her time there.
Ultimately, Perry said she left her job because she was “gas-lit, manipulated, bullied, neglected and largely unsupported” by people she did not name.
Salesforce provided TechCrunch with the following statement:
For privacy reasons, we cannot comment on individual employee matters, but equality is one of our highest values and we have been committed to further development within and outside of our company since we were founded almost 22 years ago.
All Raise aims to increase diversity at the board level
Despite recent efforts to improve diversity at the board level, board members in black, brown and women are still small. All Raise tries to fix that with the recently launched Board Xcelerate. The 90-day search process has already resulted in the placement of five independent board members.
Here is the gist of the program:
We start with discussions with investors, talent partners and CEOs who would like to fill their open, independent directorships. Then we start a fast, 90-day closed search process through a pool of talents who come from our own network and an external advisory committee and are supported and carried out by a commissioned personnel consultancy. Finally, we connect the companies and candidates to conduct an interview and determine the best fit.
Coursera makes some commitments for Black History Month
Ed Tech company Coursera has partnered with Howard University, a historically black university to improve its social justice content on the online platform. Coursera has also partnered with Facebook to offer scholarships for blacks who want to learn more about social media marketing. Finally, Coursera has partnered with the non-profit Black Girls Code to provide free access to the Coursera catalog for up to 2,000 young black girls.
Niantic launches the Black Developers Initiative
Niantic, the augmented reality company behind Pokemon Go, started a new initiative to fund new projects by black game developers. The Black Developers Initiative aims to not only fund these projects, but also provide resources and mentoring to Black Game and AR developers.
Alphabet Workers Union has its first win
Last week the AWU filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Google contract workers had been silenced over pay and the company fired an employee for talking about it. Now the worker in question, Shannon Wait, is back at work.
“Shannon is back at work because she had a union to turn to when she was illegally suspended.” AWU said in a tweet. “She came to us, we raised hell and a week later she is back.”
Vote on the warehouse workers union at Amazon begins
Earlier this week, Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted to decide whether or not to partner with the retail, wholesale and department store union. Voting began shortly after the National Labor Relations Board rejected Amazon’s attempt to delay the vote.
By forming a union, Amazon employees hope to be given the right to bargain collectively on their working conditions such as safety standards, pay, breaks, and other issues. Union formation would also allow workers to potentially become co-workers at will, depending on how the negotiations go.
The mail-in voting ends on March 29th. The NLRB starts counting the ballot papers on a virtual platform the next day.
The latest in Prop 22 battles
Although the CA’s Supreme Court declined to hear the lawsuit against the constitutionality of Prop 22, the Service Employees International Union filed a similar lawsuit in a lower court, the Alameda County Superior Court.
Meanwhile, The CA Supreme Court denied Uber and Lyft’s application in order for it to review a lower court ruling on whether they incorrectly classified their drivers as independent contractors. The decision in question stated that drivers should be classified as employees, but then it passed Prop 22 and did it so that Uber and Lyft could legally class their drivers as independent contractors.
TechCrunch Sessions: The Justice Agenda Is Here!
We have published the agenda for the upcoming justice meeting on March 3rd. We are excited to welcome Founder and Managing Director of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton, Vanessa Bain of Gig Workers Collective, Parul Koul, Chair of the Alphabet Workers Union, President of Color of Change, Rashad, Robinson, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of Anti -Defamation League, and others.
Tickets are only $ 5.