Venture Capital Firm Sued for Gender Discrimination Under California Law
Ellen Pao is an engineer, lawyer and business professional with degrees from Princeton and Harvard. In 2005, she went to work for venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in San Francisco. KPCB is a major investor in budding enterprises, providing seed money to new companies and entrepreneurs, and with a track record of working with such successes as Google Inc. and Facebook.
Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
In 2012, Pao filed a lawsuit against her employer KPCB in California state court alleging three violations of state law:
- Gender discrimination in employment;
- Retaliation for complaining about unlawful employment practices; and
- Failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent unlawful discrimination in employment.
The plaintiff alleges that these illegal employment practices affected not only her but also other female employees. Pao bases her complaint on many allegations, including:
- That a male employee engaged in a long-term pattern of illegal sexual pressure against Pao and retaliated for her refusal to carry on an intimate relationship with him.
- That KPCB management did nothing to stop the inappropriate behavior and in fact retaliated against Pao for her complaints.
- That the retaliatory action consisted of exclusion of Pao from meetings, correspondence, and involvement in the business; withholding of information from her; missed or poor reviews in which people contributed negatively who were not closely involved with her work; failure to promote Pao; an offer to work in China away from her alleged harasser; promotion of her harasser to a position of power over her; and more.
- That a senior partner gave her a book with sexual content and asked her to dinner.
- That her discriminatory treatment negatively affected her compensation.
- That Pao and other female employees were excluded from company functions.
- That after another female employee complained about the same male employee, an outside investigation was done after which he left the firm.
- And more.
Pao in her complaint asks the court for this relief:
- A jury trial;
- Judgment against KPCB;
- Compensatory damages plus interest for economic loss such as lost past and future wages and employee investments;
- Punitive damages meant to punish the defendant based on alleged malice;
- Costs, attorney's fees and interest; and
- A court order that the defendant stop its illegal behavior.
KPCB denies the allegations.
Get Informed, Knowledgeable Legal Advice
This case is receiving a lot of attention and many people await its outcome. Currently, the case is on appeal to determine whether it will be decided in arbitration or by the court.
In the meantime, anyone in California who experiences illegal sex discrimination or retaliation in the workplace should speak with an experienced employment litigation attorney in order to understand potential legal remedies.