Gender Bias Case: Silicon Valley Jury Clears Kleiner Firm

May 1, 2015 - A venture capital firm known as Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (or Kleiner) was cleared of gender discrimination claims by a California jury. A former female partner at Kleiner lodged the discrimination claims. The jury trial took place in Silicon Valley.

In addition to the discrimination claims, the firm was also cleared of allegations of retaliation against Ellen Pao, a former partner at Kleiner. Ms. Pao filed suit against the firm in 2012. She was then fired from her employment. A number of admittedly embarrassing disclosures were made during the course of the jury trial regarding the treatment female employees at Kleiner. Regardless of this information, Pao was unable to receive vindication through a winning verdict. What her efforts did achieve was a newfound awareness of the Silicon Valley corporate culture, leaving many calling into question the very evident lack of diversity.

The suit included allegations that former male partners used business trips as a chance to make inappropriate advances towards their female colleagues (including, but not limited to Pao).

Pao, no longer a partner at the firm, is now the interim chief executive at Reddit, a social-news service. Ms. Pao claims that while she did engage in an affair with Ajit Nazre, a partner at Kleiner, it was brief. She also claims that when she ended the brief affair, she quickly began to lose her footing at work. What she claims was already a workplace unfriendly to female employees, became even worse. She claims that Nazre and Kleiner as a whole started to actively retaliate against her after she ended her affair with Nazre.

The company denies the allegations. They insist they did not support a workplace climate that was unfriendly towards female employees. They also presented evidence that they actually went out of their way to hire women.

Pao was not the only female employee who cited inappropriate sexual advances from partner, Nazre. Allegations were made by another employee, Trae Vassallo. She claims that he showed up at her hotel room during a business trip inappropriately clothed and urging her to join him for a drink. The company provided assurances that these claims were investigated. Post-investigation, Nazre left the firm.

If you have questions about gender bias in the workplace, please get in touch with the southern California employment law experts at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.