Take two

Ellen Pao loses landmark Silicon Valley discrimination suit

Ellen Pao, center, plaintiff in the suit against the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Jason Henry/The New York Times

After five weeks of salacious testimony and several days of deliberations, the jury has ruled against Ellen Pao in the high-profile gender discrimination suit against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers. The jury initially ruled that the Silicon Valley venture capital firm did not discriminate against Pao, TechCrunch reported on Friday. But the judge ordered the jurors to resume deliberations because they did not reach a consensus on one of Pao’s claims. Shortly after, however, the jury came back against Pao on the outstanding claim.

Pao’s lawsuit was broken down into four parts: gender discrimination, failure to prevent gender discrimination, retaliation in the form of not promoting Pao, and retaliation in the form of firing Pao. The jury—composed of six men and six women—deliberated for three days before deciding against Pao all counts. But when the judge discovered that the fourth claim—retaliation in the form of firing—only had an 8-4 ruling, he sent the jurors back to the deliberation room.

Pao sought $16 million in lost income and $144 million in punitive damages from Kleiner Perkins. She claimed that she had experienced discrimination and professional retaliation after reporting a colleague for sexual harassment.

Now the interim chief executive officer of Reddit, Pao joined Kleiner Perkins as a junior investing partner in 2005. In court, she accused the firm of blocking her and other female employees from advancing to high-ranking positions within the company.

She also said that she suffered five years of harassment at the hands of Azit Najre, a senior partner at the company, after she ended their brief affair. Pao’s lawsuit claimed that once she reported the harassment, Najre began excluding her from important meetings, emails, and social events. Pao was fired in October of 2012, in what her lawyers claim was retaliation for her lawsuit.

Kleiner Perkins asserted that Pao never complained about sexual harassment until she hired a lawyer in 2011. Throughout the trial, the company maintained that Pao was terminated for her poor work performance, and not for her gender.

Her lawsuit has sparked a heated conversation about how women are treated in the male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley. According to the Washington Post, some tech companies have been prompted by the trial to make their offices a more welcoming space for female employees.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *