Ellen Pao, the executive at the center of a high-profile sexual harassment case that rocked Silicon Valley two years ago, is opening up about the experience and the events that led up to her suing her former company. Though a jury ruled against Pao in her case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, she appealed the verdict. Within a few months though, she agreed to drop the case, but paid the $276,000 in court fees a judge ordered her to pay in exchange for not being forced to sign a non-disparagement provision. This left her free to speak out about the specifics of her case, which she is now doing in a forthcoming book titled Reset.
In an excerpt of the book, Perkins goes into detail about the office affair she carried on with a colleague — an affair that ultimately set her on a path to one day filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against the firm. It all began with a “fateful” 2006 a business trip to Germany, Pao writes. Her colleague Ajit Nazre went on the trip along with Pao and divulged to her that he was having marital problems at home. He confessed to being “desperately lonely,” she writes, and suggested that he and Pao would make a good couple. She was lonely too.
After they returned to the U.S., she recalls that Nazre told her he was getting a divorce. This opened the door to the two of them becoming romantically-involved, though the relationship was short-lived. When she learned that he was still with his wife, she broke it off with him.
Once she ended it, Pao writes, Nazre almost instantly became hostile toward her at work. And the hostility continued for years, even as Pao went on to get married and after she returned from maternity leave after having her first child.
“Not only was he blocking my work, he had been promoted to a position of even greater responsibility and was giving me negative reviews,” Pao writes. “I started to lodge formal complaints about him. In response, the firm suggested I transfer to the China office.”