Kleiner Perkins Sued by Investment Partner Ellen Pao for Gender Discrimination and Retaliation – UPDATED
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer Investment Partner Ellen Pao filed suit against the firm earlier this month alleging instances of sexual harassment and gender discrimination affecting pay and career advancement.
The suit, filed May 10 in San Francisco Superior Court, claims Pao rejected inappropriate advances from Ajit Nazre, a former investment partner who left the firm last year, and that Investment Partner Randy Komisar later gave her an “inappropriate” book with “sexual drawings and poems with strong sexual content.” Pao, formerly a member of the cleantech team and now on the firm’s digital team, says in the suit she did have a brief relationship with Nazre in 2006.
Pao’s attorney, Alan Exelrod, did not respond to a request for comment. Kleiner Perkins did not respond to an e-mail from peHUB seeking comment.
News of the suit was first reported by TechCrunch.
(Reuters obtained a copy of the suit. PeHUB has posted the full text here and an embedded copy can be found at the bottom of this story.)
Kleiner spokeswoman Christina Lee told Reuters: ”The firm regrets that the situation is being litigated publicly and had hoped the two parties could have reached resolution, particularly given Pao’s seven-year history with the firm. ”Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter.”
Lee added Kleiner was one of the first venture capital firms to hire women as partners. “The number of women partners at the firm is one of the highest within the venture capital arena and the firm has actively supported women in all respects,” she told Reuters.
The lawsuit claims Pao experienced retaliation for breaking off the relationship with Nazre. Over the course of more than five years, Nazre excluded her from business meetings, e-mail messages and failed to share information, even after Pao reported the behavior to top firm officials, including John Doerr, Ted Schlein and Ray Lane, the suit alleges.
The suit goes on to claim that Pao and other women at Kleiner Perkins are paid less than its male partners and receive less carried interest and are denied promotions that men get.
“KPCB managing partners discriminated against women over time by allocating smaller carried interest percentages from its various investment funds to women than men,” the suit states. “The discrimination had two forms: Women were not promoted to higher levels within the firm that would have resulted in high allocations, and men at comparable levels to women were allocated larger shares of carried interest.”
In addition, the suit claims, “male junior partners were allowed to add multiple board of directors positions and investment sponsorships each year while female junior partners were limited to just one. This difference in treatment affected compensation, because investment sponsorships impacted board positions, outside perceptions and the ability to generate returns.”
Pao’s companies include Flipboard, Crittercism and Jive Software.
Fortune magazine’s Term Sheet blog reported that Kleiner issued the following statement about the suit:
“In response to a discrimination complaint filed in the Superior Court of San Francisco by Ellen Pao, Christina Lee, a Kleiner Perkins spokesperson, stated the Firm regrets that the situation is being litigated publicly and had hoped the two parties could have reached resolution, particularly given Pao’s 7-year history with the firm. Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter. The Firm has been a diversity pioneer in its industry and was one of the first venture capital firms to hire women as partners. The number of women partners at the firm is one of the highest within the venture capital arena and the firm has actively supported women in all respects.”
(UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a link to the lawsuit and comments made to Reuters by Kleiner Perkins. The second and third paragraphs also were two paragraphs lower.)
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
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