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Kleiner Perkins lawsuit spotlights difficulties of proving discrimination

Original post made on May 26, 2012

When a woman filed a lawsuit against a high-profile venture capital firm, it sparked a storm of discussion inside and outside the tech industry.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, May 26, 2012, 1:32 PM

Comments (21)

Posted by Goforit, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Why mention the husband? It has nothing to do with the case under discussion.

Why mentioning the settlement or the money involved? Is it the implication that the plaintiff went to court for money???

PA weekly should not side with the corporations like KP, drowning the voices of employees...

I would imagine it takes a ton of guts to tell the world that she was taken advantage of sexually. I would also imagine that money is not an issue for her...well, not as rich as The big names in the firm for sure, but still decent living.

The only possible explanation is that she is fed up...


Posted by I believe her, a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Rather than information about her husband, the story should name the men who are accused. Women don't report for a long time because it endangers their jobs, creates embarrassment, etc.
"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."


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Here are details on Pao's lawsuit:

Web Link

Reading the above you can see the names, you can see their photos on their website.

Even given the issues w/her husband & suspicions on the timing (maybe she needs the money? - but what a gamble!) it doesn't mean that she's lying or exaggerating. I know a woman who specifically didn't accept a job offer at the same firm even w/the generous pay due to the harsh climate for women which she said wasn't a huge secret.

Whatever Ms. Pao's motivations, if the allegations are true, I hope that they suffer significant financial loss & are somehow forced to overhaul their medieval corporate culture.



Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Very odd that she would wait 6 years to file--the statute of limitations in these cases is 1 year.

She appears rather disturbed-why would she have an affair with a married colleague?

Looks like her husband is in very, very serious trouble indeed

Follow the money--was apparently this couples strategy.

At the end of the day both husband and wife may be looking at a very, very bleak future


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Speaking of disturbed, once again Sharon's blaming the female. Sharon, don't you think that the plaintiff, herself an attorney, knows the law re statute of limitations?

Do you think that the married male colleague might be disturbed for pursuing Ms. Pao & starting a relationship based on lies? Have you read the actual court docs? If so, read them again. If not, please do - you might garner some useful information to fill in the blanks & perhaps nip a bit of your "misogyny" in the bud.


Posted by Elwood Blues, a resident of Menlo Park
on May 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Elwood Blues is a registered user.

"The one thing I find really odd is that she alleges the sexual harassment happened six years ago and did nothing about it."

Uh, that's not really very odd, is it? Sexual harassment is often not reported, for the obvious reasons: embarrassment, wanting to keep your current job, wanting to protect your chances of ever getting hired again, etc.

I think Palo Alto Online ought to be able to find a better third-party source to comment on the facts surrounding this story; Ms. Heverly seems rather tilted towards the employer's side.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm

The statute of limitations in these cases is 1 year--bringing a case 6 yrs later looks like a shakedown to most people--the Firm says it will not stand for blackmail by Pao.

PAOs husband has a colorful past--and a dim future

Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher, Jr has been sued multiple times for sexual harassment by male employees--@ Harvard he was publically gay and was so until he married Ms Pao see link below

He has a long history of litigation claiming racial discrimination all of which he lost

He is now the target of SEC investigation and fraud

read the story--"Buddy Fletcher: Financial Genius ' or a Fake?

Web Link

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm

What a web Sharon weaves - deliberating ignoring the lie that Nazre told Ms. Pao - that his wife had left him, when she hadn't. Guess what, Sharon? This case isn't about Fletcher, it's about what Pao allegedly experienced at her firm.


Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm



Nazre left the Firm many years ago, Nazre was not her supervisor they were both associates 7 years ago when they had an affair-she of course knew he was married -
- they both did it anyway-

-very stupid on both parties side-

-Nazre was apparently let go as a result-

-end of story

Pao thought she could shakedown the Firm-bad decision and bad outcome

It gets worse as the SEC and many other agencies are investigating her husband for civil and criminal fraud and it is getting worse and may involve Pao as a co-conspirator.

Harvard has pulled the plug on them

Web Link

They are in serious trouble.

Also fake allegations of sexual harassment diminishes the status of women and deprives us of opportunities--no sane male executive will now meet alone with a female employee without a witness and a camera

That is tragic for us--but the lawyers get paid


Posted by sue Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Sharon can be ignored. As usual she is posting her fantasies and innuendo directed against her target du jour


Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2012 at 7:07 am

If this suit is settled, without going to trial, there will be non-disclosures signed, so the public will never know what the truth might be.

Interesting that the Weekly is willing to toss some mud at a local VC, telling only one side of the story. Not all that fair and balanced reporting.


Posted by fromthewest, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2012 at 9:45 am

Another sad twist in an increasingly convoluted saga.

Whether or not her allegations are accurate and salient, the timing of Ms. Pao's suit, frankly, couldn't be any worse.

Given who her husband is and how he seems to operate, it's not too much of a stretch to suppose that she has in some way been manipulated into this action by Mr. Fletcher as a last ditch effort to bail him out of his present financial mess.

That seems the likeliest explanation of the timing of this suit.

Run Ellen, run!


Posted by Jim, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

Tort reform: Loser pays.

That would cut way down on these types of suits.


Posted by Tom C., a resident of Los Altos
on May 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

I can't imagine it's been easy for Ellen. Her name has been everywhere in the press and has seen a lot of unfavorable commentary, unfortunately. Her husband's name has also been dragged through the mud. The saddest thing about being victimized in the workplace is you are forced to revisit that trauma in a very public way, and then again in the courtroom. This isn't about money. VC partners make a fair share. And Ellen is up against a firm that can spend millions defending itself. The reason to do these things is because so many people, perhaps more timid, have suffered in the same way and have remained silent. I've seen gender discrimination first-hand on Sand Hill and it's an ugly thing. Ellen's suit - whether successful or not- will put the old boy's network on watch...they'll be on a short leash. Anyone with a daughter or sister can appreciate that


Posted by Jim, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

It is relatively easy to sue a corporation, because the loser does not need to pay. The so-called "victims", suing for millions, hire attorneys on contingency. If the attornies were forced to pay court costs, for both sides, if they lose, the number of suits will go way down.

I don't know the facts in this case, and I doubt that other commenters do, however, I fail to see the merit in the suit. Long time ago, she admitted to an affair, her husband has a reputation for bringing suits (because the loser does not pay).

I might also add that the VC world is one of risk and (potential) reward. It is not a nurturing place. This means that it is a male world. A female in that world will need to fight like the guys, and take no prisoners. It was once said that Texas "is hell on women and mustangs"...VC is Texas. There were some pioneer women in Texas, who could deal with it, back in the 1870s, and they were both soft and tough. It doesn't sound like "Ellen" belongs in Texas.


Posted by butterflyjones, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2012 at 12:48 pm

She marries a man who has at least two sexual harassment settlements against him...and looks to have swindled investors out of millions of dollars. She waits to sue...right at the same time her husband's fund is being liquidated.

It doesn't seem that she has been drug through the mud so much as she and her husband are beneficiaries of the public's doubt, as well as the public's ignorance of her husband's finances and shady dealings.

Given the circumstances surrounding this lawsuit, which aren't necessarily viable in a court of law, frankly they both seem to have a knack for drawing unnecessary and harmful amounts of attention to themselves. Her husband's business would be intact today had he not gone nuclear with such a stupid lawsuit against his coop.


This isn't going to end well. The mess is getting worse by the day.


Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm

It creates a lot of trouble for men and women, but especially women, when they don't "behave," as in the situation that this woman did in fact engage in an affair with that guy. I would have a higher level of confidence in her story if she had NOT engaged in sex with him. Emotions - money - office politics - promotions - favors -- eek! It all gets SO complicated.
Writing as a woman, I greatly dislike these questionable stories (because in fact, of course, I have no idea of the veracity of her charges) -- but the story is certainly involved, convoluted, involving VIPs and taking place over years and so it results in a leering mindset about OTHER women, never mind this one and damages us all. Yes, it damages the status of women. Keep your mitts off your office colleagues (this goes both ways)- that is the only way to keep things on the level. HR should ENFORCE this, even if executives are involved.


Posted by lily wyatt, a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2012 at 3:08 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff due to disrespectful comment or offensive language.]


Posted by Jim, a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Old saying: Don't get your meat where you get your bread and butter. As true today, as it was back then.


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

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Her husband's history, problems and possible pressure on her to file doesn't mean the allegations are untrue. There are various reasons that influence the whys & whens of a filing like this. Even if there is a payout, there's no guarantee and now her name is mud - she's risking a lot even if the allegations are true. If they're not, then she's risking just as much, if not more. Is it likely she'll have to change careers after this? It'll take awhile to see what happens & we may not be privy to the details, depending on which legal avenues are taken here.


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