News

Kleiner Perkins answers sex-discrimination lawsuit

Menlo Park firm's court filing cites performance issues, 'twisted facts'

Claiming a female employee has "twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist," Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers filed a detailed response to a sex-discrimination lawsuit Wednesday, June 13, in San Francisco Superior Court.

Ellen Pao, a junior investment partner at Kleiner Perkins, filed the lawsuit May 10 after working at the Menlo Park venture capital 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.

Kleiner Perkins has asked the court to seal portions of the case record related to profit-sharing agreements, and to compel Pao to resolve the issue through arbitration, which the company says she is contractually obligated to do.

But the public portions of the filing attack Pao's allegations, often presenting a point-by-point rebuttal. It flatly denies that she reported any harassment until late 2011 or early 2012. By then, according to the document, she had already hired a lawyer and was preparing to sue.

Once she did complain, according to Kleiner Perkins, it hired an independent outside investigator who interviewed 17 partners, including every female partner at the time, "provided Plaintiff multiple opportunities to provide information and documents, and, after a thorough review, concluded the Plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation complaints were without merit."

Pao started working at Kleiner Perkins in 2005 a few years after finishing an Ivy League education that included both a law degree and MBA from Harvard, according to her lawsuit. 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. According to Pao's filing, the man left the firm in 2011 after allegations made by other women were investigated.

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.

In its rebuttal, Kleiner Perkins cites Pao's performance reviews, which questioned her ability to work as a team, initiative, and interpersonal skills. "Based solely on repeated and widespread performance concerns" raised by colleagues inside and outside the company, "Plaintiff did not earn the necessary support of her male and female partners for promotion," according to the filing.

Although veteran partner John Doerr posted a statement on the company's website two weeks ago that said facts would determine the outcome of the case, it may be a matter of perspective.

For example, Pao's filing says a senior partner gave her "The Book of Longing" by Leonard Cohen, and described it as filled with sexual drawings and poems. The partner then asked her out to dinner while his wife was out of town, which she found inappropriate, according to the lawsuit.

Kleiner Perkins, on the other hand, said the book was chosen by the man's wife for Pao after the junior partner gave him a book about Buddhism as a holiday gift. Leonard Cohen wrote "The Book of Longing" after a five-year stay at a Zen monastery; the firm's legal filing quotes a New York Times book review that called it "profound."

Pao's lawsuit details specific instances of gender 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."

Kleiner Perkins again flatly denied the allegations. "On the contrary, a dinner to which Plaintiff appears to refer to as male-only was, in fact, attended by male and female KPCB partners, and male and female entrepreneurs and leaders," the filing states.

The venture capital firm's counsel has asked the court to dismiss the case. The court scheduled a management conference for Oct. 10.

Attorneys for either side were not available for comment. Pao remains an employee of Kleiner Perkins, and posted on an online industry message board on June 4 that she has no plans to quit.

Comments

Posted by Rene, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm

"A peer with longer tenure at the firm began pressuring her for sex, she alleges, and after eight months she briefly gave in."

With all that education from Harvard, she "gave in"? Really. Seriously. In Silicon Vally she was required to give in?

I don't buy it.


Posted by Who-Cares?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Who cares? This is about a lot of sleazy inter-office politics in a private company whose doors are closed to the public, about people willing to commit adultery and possibly lie about it, who are all very wealthy because they have convinced a lot of other wealthy people to let them play with their money!

So .. who cares? The public should not have to listen to a bunch of he-said/she-said .. which will all be resolved behind closed doors.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by discrimination suits, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Good for her, standing up for what she believes is right. There is something not right about her being SEVEN 7 years with the firm, and her title is still "Junior Partner".


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 14, 2012 at 7:36 pm



Pao will get no money and she made a serious mistake in trying to "shakedown" a company of which Al Gore is a partner


Posted by Aquamarine, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 14, 2012 at 10:09 pm

There goes Sharon again with her anti-gay, racist posts. Oh, wait, she had to re-post her dreck in a more palatable style. Way to go, Sharon!


Posted by gethin, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Although I am usually fast to believe that in these cases typically the women are discriminated against and suffer some form of sexual abuse, in this case, based on public statements the reality seems to be the exact opposite. Her lawsuit smells of being very suspicious.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I can't believe how with all this pouch education she didn't leave the company if there is no room to grow and planing to stay after all the mess. What is this brief relationship prior to the case? Fishy to me too.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm



All Kleiner Perkins partners are bound by arbitration agreements

-so Pao's case could be thrown out and she could be sued for breach of contract by Kleiner Perkins.

The NYT,WSJ and the financial press are not sympathetic to Pao's allegations. Kleiner Perkins has won the PR battle so far.

Kleiner Perkins is going to fight Pao-it will be very expensive indeed for both Kleiner Perkins and Pao-in the $ millions for both sides.

Arbitration would seem to have been the rational approach-too late now


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm

Sharon has predicted that Pao will lose., you can now be assured that she will triumph. Good for her.


Posted by deldos, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Sharon:
I get a kick out of seeing the reaction you get out of one particular commentator who seems to take on many different names but keeps throwing the same kind of crazy at you.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm


@deldos, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, 3 minutes ago

Yes --svatoid appears under many different names and is being tracked and monitored-

He will self destruct like " Fireman" who did the same thing-flamed out-

-- and is now in jail.



Posted by deldos, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Sharon, I'm afraid I don't get your "Fireman" reference.

But yes I agree svatoid is self-destructing, and it has been a long time coming.

There are so many things that need to be said about this case but cannot be said because of the potentially damaging consequences that far outweigh the benefit of getting things off one's chest. At least you are bold enough to put the truth out there even in the face of silly threats.

Keep speaking the truth Sharon.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm



Agreed

The truth will now come out is coming out in this case--it is not good for Pao

It is what it is


Posted by deldos, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I'm curious as to why Mister Fletcher isn't already in jail.


Posted by deldos, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm

@sharon if only those who were defending Ms. Pao knew the truth or were open to it.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2012 at 10:15 pm

"Fireman" was taken down on trumped-up charges because he spoke the truth and wasn't PC.

Ironically similar to what to what Pao is trying to do to Kleiner Perkins.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2012 at 1:32 am

Outside Observer - you gots it goin' on today! (Or technically, yesterday). The above post is intriguing & your acerbic, spot-on comment in the Levy thread was great.

It'll be interesting to see what happens w/the KP/Pao case. None of us know the truth - not even Sharon(!) & by the end of it all, whatever is made public won't necessarily be the truth, either.

I have a friend who has experienced sexual harassment recently & she had to be especially adroit in how she handled it, because it could truly screw up her career. This is a highly educated, incredibly intelligent woman who is no wallflower. This has happened in a much-lauded institution in this area & she even works w/her spouse. None of that has kept her safe from the jerk who has harassed her. It must be her fault since he finds her attractive & he has a drinking problem.


Posted by Smith, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2012 at 2:13 am

I have been with my company for twelve, TWELVE, 12 years and I and many others in my class are still junior. We suffer not from discrimination but from bad timing and the economy. No one is forcing us to stay or have sex.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2012 at 8:01 am

"Yes --svatoid appears under many different names and is being tracked and monitored-"
Ha ha ha. Very amusing, Sharon. I am being tracked and monitored by whom?
By you?

You know that tracking and monitoring people is illegal if you are a private citizen
Such tracking and monitoring is a felony in California -
-watch out-
-knock knock-
-your ISP has identified your computer as possibly taking part in a felony-
-you have the right to an attorney---
-etc -good luck
the penalty can be up to 8 years in State Prison-
- very hard time
Be careful, Sharon

"He will self destruct like " Fireman" who did the same thing-flamed out-
-- and is now in jail."
Is that another of your predications, Sharon? If so, then I have nothing to worry about.

But why not criticize me directly? Why invent this deldos?? So that you could have a conversation with yourself??
And what is crazy about predicting that Pao will triumph?? You predicted doom and gloom for Peter Gleik--grand juries, investigations by the FBI, trials, jail time etc. And he is back on the job now.


Posted by calling Sharon's bluff, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm

"Yes --svatoid appears under many different names and is being tracked and monitored-"

Okay, Sharon, I will call your bluff.
Tell us who is tracking and monitoring svatoid and who he really is.
Time to put up or shut up, Sharon. You constantly post factoids, exaggerations, untruths and plain speculation. When called upon for proof, you disappear.
This time, let's have the facts.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

svatoid- I'll help bail you out of jail ;-)Maybe in the interim, you can share a cell w/Fireman.

Can't you hear the call from The Weekly to PAPD? "Yes, we have an online user posting under several names. We know because we've tracked him. What? Oh, no, he's not not doing anything illegal, he hasn't threatened anyone, but we want him arrested because Sharon of Midtown wants it to happen."

Poof! Up in smoke on this Spare the Air day Sharon's theory is shown to be insane.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Actually, Sharon might be on to something.

There is a history:

Web Link


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:35 am

She had an affair, she wrecked her reputation, and now she would like to blame somebody else. This is not a sympathetic plaintiff.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm


In a recent similar case in Texas jamie leigh jones tried to get out of her contract for mandatory arbitration.

Web Link

Mother Jones reported in depth.

Jamie Leigh Jones not only lost her case in Federal Court but also has to pay very significant costs to the defendant--her employer.

Sending a very clear message that

If you sign a contract that binds you to arbitration and you try to break that contract you will lose
-big time-

as will the lawyers hoping to get 30-40% of the money from the plaintiff.

In the jamie leigh jones case her lawyer went out of business

The trial lawyers hate when that happens--with good reason.

In California we have robust very support for arbitration contracts in employment law and a huge amount of case law supporting that position that if you make a contract for arbitration then that will be held up at the both State and Federal level.

Pao will lose her attempt to breach her contract- IMHO


Posted by Its OK with Mr.Sharon, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Mom and Mr. Sharon, is it ok that the men in the company pressured her to have sex,
You keep talking about the legal stuff and not about the facts of the case. I guess that is not a problem in your world, Mr. Sharon.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

Sharon seems to suggest that in this case the woman has made the whole story up--otherwise why mention a totally unrelated case unless that was the point that Sharon was trying to make. We would love to see Sharon's proof for this. Of course we are also still waiting for Sharon to provide evidence for her "tracking and monitoring" claim made earlier.
Naturally, we do not expect an answer from Sharon--when confronted to provide proof for her factoids, exaggerations, untruths and plain speculation, she scurries and hides and the re-emerges with more innuendo.
What do you say, deldos???


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2012 at 10:08 pm


Thank you for sharing

Get some help-- it is available

Interesting that Pao is still on staff-one would think she would move

Why doesn't she?


Posted by pr battle?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2012 at 11:12 pm


Sharon,

"The NYT,WSJ and the financial press are not sympathetic to Pao's allegations. Kleiner Perkins has won the PR battle so far."

not sure this speaks to the case itself, and the pr battle may be won for the wsj and net audience. on google search, it will probably appear at the top of the items for this company, and instead of thinking silicon chips, the image is more silicon implants...


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2012 at 5:56 am

"Thank you for sharing
Get some help-- it is available"

Thanks, Sharon, your advice and most of your predictions can be ignored.

"Interesting that Pao is still on staff-one would think she would move
Why doesn't she?"
Why don't you contact her and ask. That would be the best way to answer your speculative questions.

Deldos, myself and others are eagerly awaiting you to provide evidence for her "tracking and monitoring" claim made earlier. Naturally, we do not expect an answer from Sharon--when confronted to provide proof for her factoids, exaggerations, untruths and plain speculation, she scurries and hides and the re-emerges with more innuendo.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 21, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Right now, the question I *most* want an answer to:

Sharon REALLY reads Mother Jones?????


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