A King County judge sided with a former executive at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who claimed he was misled about the scope of his job during his recruitment and that he was terminated for clashing with executives who didn’t believe in his new role.
Todd Pierce, former chief digital officer for the Gates Foundation, claimed he was told the position focused more on strategy than day-to-day IT work and was supported by key executives at the organization, including CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Bill Gates. But within a year, Pierce began clashing with executives who wanted him to stick to technical fixes.
The Gates Foundation issued the following statement on the case: “The foundation strongly disagrees with the court’s ruling, which we believe is inconsistent with both the law and the facts presented at trial. The foundation intends to appeal the decision.”
The ruling from King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer was not immediately available.
Pierce joined the Gates Foundation in early 2015. He was previously a senior vice president at Salesforce, where he claimed in court documents he was making a $1.5 million annual salary and had several million in future stock options that hadn’t vested yet. He was terminated about 18 months later.
At the time, the foundation said his departure was a mutual decision and thanked Pierce for his contributions, “including assembling a strong leadership team, investing in the broader IT team’s personal development, and for pushing us to take risks and leverage digital tools (social, mobile, analytics, and cloud) to accelerate the foundation’s core work.”
Pierce sued the Gates Foundation in April 2017, a few months after he was terminated.
In court documents, the Gates Foundation said it hired Pierce at an annual salary of $425,000 plus a $100,000 signing bonus. Pierce sought damages accounting for past, present and future wage losses as well as reduced earning capacity and the lost stock options from Salesforce.
According to Pierce’s LinkedIn profile, his current work includes sitting on a pair of boards for health-oriented companies in San Francisco.