Kleiner Perkins: Facts will determine outcome of discrimination lawsuit | June 6, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - June 6, 2012

Kleiner Perkins: Facts will determine outcome of discrimination lawsuit

by Sandy Brundage

Calling the period a difficult time at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, veteran partner John Doerr posted a statement about a fellow employee's gender discrimination lawsuit on the venture capital firm's website on May 30.

"It is not easy to stand by as false allegations are asserted against the firm, especially because legal constraints prevent us from responding fully at this time. But we have been heartened to hear from so many people — including many women — who have reached out to convey their support," he wrote.

Ellen Pao, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, filed the lawsuit on May 10 after working at the firm for seven years. The suit alleges that the firm discriminates against women for promotions and compensation, and retaliated against Ms. Pao after she complained about sexual harassment.

Mr. Doerr wrote that an independent investigation had concluded that the allegations were without merit and that the Menlo Park firm doesn't discriminate against women. "In the end, facts — not unfounded claims — will determine the outcome of the suit filed against us. We will vigorously defend our reputation and are confident we will prevail."

The statement encouraged those judging the company to consider its track record on supporting female entrepreneurs. According to its website, 12 of the 49 partners at Kleiner Perkins are women, which it claims is "the most of any leading venture capital firm."

The company has retained Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a law firm specializing in defending corporations against discrimination claims.

After finishing an Ivy League education that included both a law degree and an MBA from Harvard, Ms. Pao started working at Kleiner Perkins in 2005, according to her legal complaint. A peer with longer tenure at the firm began pressuring her for sex, she alleges, and after eight months she briefly gave in.

The lawsuit claims that after she ended the relationship he retaliated by leaving her out of business projects. The man left the firm in 2011 after the firm conducted an independent investigation into allegations made by other women, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that a senior partner made an inappropriate advance to Ms. Pao and later participated in her performance reviews, to her detriment.

After hearing of complaints from three administrative assistants about harassment and discrimination in 2007, she repeatedly approached upper management for help without success, according to the lawsuit. Instead Ms. Pao perceived a pattern of retaliation as she was passed over for promotion, networking events and raises, and given delayed or biased performance reviews.

The complaint details specific instances of exclusion, including a company ski trip in January 2012 and several dinners to which only male employees were invited. The host of one event reportedly said that inviting women would "kill the buzz."

In March, three men who had been employed for less time at Kleiner Perkins than Ms. Pao were promoted while no women received similar advancement, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Ms. Pao nor her attorney, Alan Exelrod — known for winning a landmark sexual harassment case in 1994 <0x2014 was available for comment.


Like this comment
Posted by Tech Woman
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Jun 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

So, one guy has already left the firm as a result of an internal investigation and now we are supposed to believe Mr. Doerr's statement that these are "unfounded claims"? Come on, let't not insult our intelligence.

And the response of "We will vigorously defend our reputation and are confident we will prevail." Hmmmm, sounds like an ego trip and not an interest to insure women are being treated fairly.

Let's hope a daughter of Mr. Doerr's isn't put in a situation like this, and then has a group of billionaires fighting to defend THEIR reputation. Well, the reputation is that Kleiner Perkins is a sexist environment - is that what will be defended?