Kleiner Perkins Partner Ellen Pao Sues Firm for Gender Discrimination Over Sexual Harassment
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao has filed a lawsuit against her employer, alleging multiple instances of sexual harassment and a continuing pattern of gender discrimination against her and other women at the firm.
The case was filed on May 10 and surfaced by Colleen Taylor at TechCrunch today. Pao was formerly on the Kleiner Perkins cleantech team, and is currently on the digital team. Her investments include Flipboard, Crittercism and Datameer.
In the complaint, Pao said she was sexually harassed mainly by former Kleiner Perkins partner Ajit Nazre, starting in 2006, the year after she joined the firm. Pao said she did briefly have a relationship with Nazre, but after breaking things off with him, multiple Kleiner Perkins partners and an outside human resources consultant allegedly ignored Pao’s complaints about repeated harassment and retaliation, and rejected her requests to transfer away from Nazre.
Pao also said she experienced inappropriate advances by another partner, Randy Komisar, and that another female staffer experienced sexual harassment from Nazre as well.
Partners named in the suit for allegedly ignoring Pao’s complaints include Ray Lane, John Doerr and Ted Schlein.
Pao alleged a pattern of discrimination against women within Kleiner Perkins, with examples including her being excluded from the advising of a successful company that she brought to the firm, and being left out of multiple social events at the firm.
From the complaint:
KPCB discriminates against Plaintiff and other women by failing to promote them comparably to men, by compensating them less than men through lower salary, bonus and carried interest, by restricting the number of investments that women are allowed to make as compared to men, by failing to act when complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination are made, by excluding women from meetings and discussions, by failing to provide equivalent sponsorship of women as of men, by failing to include junior women comparably to junior men in the interview process, and by failing to provide opportunities for visibility and success inside and outside the firm for women as compared to men.
And here’s Kleiner Perkins’ statement on the matter, via TechCrunch:
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.
Here’s the full lawsuit, which includes descriptions of quite a few alleged incidents of harassment, failure to address that harassment, and discrimination: