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Silicon Valley Firm Sued for Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination

June 5, 2012

Howard Law's Costa Mesa-based labor and employment attorney Vincent Howard has been following the recent sexual discrimination lawsuit filed against Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers last month. Kleiner, the well-known California venture capital firm, was sued by junior partner Ellen Pao--who accused the firm of creating a male-dominated work environment filled with sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation based on gender. This California sexual discrimination lawsuit is the latest employment issue to bring public attention to the ongoing issue of gender roles in the technology world of Silicon Valley.

Pao reportedly started working for Kleiner, known for investing in tech companies such as Google, Groupon and Zynga, as junior partner in 2005--in order to act as chief of staff for John Doerr by identifying investments, writing speeches and interviewing executives.

The sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit, filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), claims that Pao was immediately subjected to inappropriate workplace harassment when a male junior executive approached her with sexual advances--which Pao reportedly succumbed to due to his insistence. Pao claims that when she ended the relationship, she was subjected to a pattern of retaliation that lasted for the entirety of her time with the firm, over five years.

Pao accuses Kleiner in the lawsuit of fostering an environment where women could be sexually harassed and then socially and professionally rejected by a group of male coworkers--creating working conditions that are intolerable, and that violate state and federal law. Pao claims that she experienced unfair treatment as a woman, that she was denied promotion, and suffered loss of compensation and other benefits because of the firm's actions.

The venture capitalist firm is also being accused of trying to keep women in their place, by failing to promote them in comparison to men with similar job duties, paying them less than men, and curbing the number investments that female employees are allowed to make in comparison to the male employees. Pao claims that women are excluded from discussions and meetings, and that Kleiner fails to give women opportunities for visibility and success inside as well as outside the firm, as compared to male employees. The firm is also being accused of discriminating against female employees and their legal rights to pregnancy and childbirth.

The sexual discrimination lawsuit is also accusing the firm of failing to act when Pao's complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination were made. Mr. Doerr reportedly declined to comment on the lawsuit, but according to the firm, after a lawyer was brought in to investigate, they found no basis to her complaints. Last week, Mr. Doerr stated on the firm's website that Kleiner would strongly defend the firm's reputation.

In a New York Times report that Vincent Howard has been following, according to the headhunting firm Spencer Stuart, women only make up 9.1% of the board members of Silicon Valley companies, as compared to 16% of Standard & Poor's 500 companies. Estimates given by The National Venture Capital Association claim that only about 11% of woman at venture firms are investing partners.

In Westminster, Yorba Linda and Tustin, California, contact Vincent Howard, at Howard Law, PC today.

Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man's World of Tech, New York Times, June 2, 2012

Brogrammers Beware: Silicon Valley Culture Criticized, Portfolio.com, June 4, 2012

Here Is the Complaint Ellen Pao Filed in California Before She Sued Kleiner Perkins for Sexism, Betabeat, May 30, 2012

Kleiner's Doerr Says Bias Lawsuit Is 'Without Merit', Bloomberg, May 30, 2012

Related Web Resources:

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC: Laws Enforced by EEOC

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

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