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 that it 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, Pao 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.
Doerr wrote in his statement Wednesday that the 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," he said.
The statement encouraged those judging the company to consider its track record on supporting female entrepreneurs. According to the firm's 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.
Neither Pao nor her attorney, Alan Exelrod — known for winning a landmark sexual harassment case in 1994 — could be reached for comment.
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