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Kleiner Perkins: 'Facts will determine outcome of discrimination suit'

Partner says VC firm 'confident that we will prevail'

Calling the last several days 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 Wednesday, 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.

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.

Ellen Pao, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, filed the lawsuit 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 Pao after she complained about sexual harassment.

After finishing an Ivy League education that included both a law degree and MBA from Harvard, Pao started working at Kleiner Perkins in 2005, according to the 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 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 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 Pao were promoted while no women received similar advancement, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Pao nor her attorney, Alan Exelrod -- known for winning a landmark sexual harassment case in 1994 -- could be reached for comment.

Related story:

Kleiner Perkins lawsuit spotlights difficulties of proving discrimination

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yawn
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 31, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Since this is all going to go away without the public's every knowing the details .. what's the point of running this story? Ellen Pao doesn't exactly come off as a heroine, and she certainly does come off as even much of a "victim", at least so far.

All in all .. Ellen Pao .. you got some 'splainin' to do!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm


Former Vice President Al Gore

... is a senior partner with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, ...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Sharon - why don't you tell us something that we don't already know? Thank you in advance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on May 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm

This litigation will in fact harm womens prospects in the High Tech sector-it sure will not benefit Pao-

There are many more productive ways of resolving conflict in the workplace

" Her action may reduce the very kind of access she enjoyed for those who followed her.

Setting Kleiner Perkins aside, consider the rest of the sector.

Human-resources specialists aren't idiots.

They see how much Pao, still merely alleging, is costing a firm such as Kleiner Perkins: time, image and distraction from its main work, finding value.

Other businesses will work harder to avoid a litigious hire.

They will scour candidates' resumes for similarities to Pao's.

Her husband, Alphonse Fletcher Jr., had filed lawsuits.

Any job candidate with a record of suing, or with a litigious spouse, will get a cooler reception.

Starting last week.

In other words, some highly qualified candidates will be excluded.

Will HR departments admit what they are doing?

Never."

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 31, 2012 at 5:16 pm

And how many malpractice suits can you file before it becomes difficult to find a doctor?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Again, her husband's record isn't relevant in this suit.

This article certainly does little to convince that there's nothing to her allegations. It's a PR puffpiece, & reminds me of Edwards' mea culpa hand-wringing today in that it's going through the motions & expecting us to take them at their word. It'll be interesting to see what evidence she may have - if the public is allowed to learn any details.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ivy League
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm

What's the point of carefully noting her Ivy League education?
Are we supposed to ooh and ahh? Are we supposed to believe her "more" than the VC firm here? I am unimpressed with that detail and believe it's irrelevant to *any* sex discrimination lawsuit. The case goes on it's own merits. Mostly, I am tired of people bringing up their Ivy League connections at any possible opportunity.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2012 at 5:48 am

How does her choice to have an affair result in a discrimination lawsuit against the firm? I think the reason this hasn't settled is that the facts are ridiculous and no jury is going to find her sympathetic.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 1, 2012 at 8:47 am

Mom, read the legal filing because this story is an update and not comprehensive so it's misleading. She alleges that her more senior colleague lied and said his wife had left him. She'd been encouraged by senior staff to get involved with him.

A victim doesn't have to be sympathetic to be a victim, but it helps. Who knows what real evidence exists? I want to know what admin staff experienced - there were problems in that segment of employees with harassment according to her suit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sympathetic
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

Wow. The vast majority of the comments here appear to be blaming the woman for filing the lawsuit.

Careful reading of the article reveals that three admins were also sexually harassed at this firm.

I worked in High Tech, and I remember well the "full of themselves" VC's who used to visit our company. Having the means to support or deny a small company's success gave the mostly male guys from these companies lots and lots of "attitude".

And, back in the 70s, before there was much awareness of this, I was sexually harassed at nearly every job I held. Young, fairly attractive women had to fend bosses off all the time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Sharon's values
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Mr. Sharon as usual believes that anything that interrupts making money for the company. even severe misbehavior by the executives.
Mr. Sharon is true to his core belief, that money is more important than anything else. His engineering experience is relevant.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by vkmo
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 2, 2012 at 11:09 am

If she "gave in", then she was complicit. She should have refused and complained instead of "giving in". If a person has sex with a coworker, then it becomes hard to continue in the organization. She should have skipped and gone to a different organization.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrible
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 2, 2012 at 1:38 pm

This is a terrible issue - a true he said, she said, with rich people and big names all around. Really no good for anyone.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm


Pao got a very unfavorable review in the NYT this weekend- they cast her - along with her husband- as litigious gold diggers.

The husband was a major active figure in the gay community in NY for over a decade and was hit with multiple suits for sexual harassment by male employees.

One quote from the NYT " How can Pao not remember how many times she slept with someone she later accused of sexual harassment?"

This case is both hilarious and career ending for Pao and her husband

As they said in the 90s-

-what were they thinking?


Good that KP refuses to be blackmailed and is heading for court to clear their brands reputation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Sharon's values
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

That she "gave in" to keep her job does not make her complicit. And it's easy not to remember the number of times if it was more than 2 or 3.
Regardless of her failings, she has a good case, money will only be paid if the allegations are true.
I understand Mr. Sharon's macho values, but I do not share them. He is a throwback to a former era. I hope she names names. Those rich boys get away with alot. Ask any woman who works with them.


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