The “sexism in tech” debate is about to get new legs with the news that Ellen Pao, a partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins, is suing the company for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Ms. Pao is represented by San Francisco attorney Alan B. Exelrod, who has extensive experience in successfully prosecuting sexual harassment suits, including the seminal 1994 case Weeks vs. Baker & McKenzie.
“This case concerns KPCB’s discriminatory treatment of [Ms. Pao] and other female employees, specifically in advancement and compensation, because of their gender,” reads the suit, unearthed by TechCrunch. “Moreover, [Ms. Pao] experienced continuing retaliation after she complained about sexual harassment to the highest level of management at KPCB.”
The document goes on to allege that a fellow partner, Ajit Nazre, continually sexually harassed Ms. Pao beginning as early as 2006. When Ms. Pao rebuffed his advances, the suit alleges that Mr. Nazre retaliated against her for more than five years, excluding her from business meetings and failing “to share information required for her job.” Instead of listening to Ms. Pao’s complaints to management, Ms. Pao alleges that KPCB instead promoted Mr. Nazre and asked Ms. Pao to relocate to China, which she refused.
Following multiple complaints from different KPCB employees about sexual harassment, Mr. Nazre left the company in December 2011.
Kleiner Perkins told TechCrunch, “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.” Of course, just because you hire women doesn’t mean you treat them equally.
We’ve also reached out to both Kleiner Perkins and Ms. Pao’s lawyer and will update when we hear more.
Update: A tipster wrote in to clarify: “Harassment is an allegation in the complaint but not a legal claim. Those claims are discrimination and retaliation.”