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Kleiner Perkins Wants Ellen Pao To Pay $1 Million For Losing Her Gender Discrimination Case

The VC firm suffered a major PR blow from the high-profile case, but making Pao pay them back for legal costs isn’t likely to help their image.

Kleiner Perkins Wants Ellen Pao To Pay $1 Million For Losing Her Gender Discrimination Case
[Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

It’s been nearly a month since a jury decided that Silicon Valley’s prominent VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers didn’t discriminate against its former employee Ellen Pao based on her gender. Now that they’ve won, the firm is asking for more.

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At the time, we reported that Felicia Medina, managing partner at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP, San Francisco office, who followed the case closely and has experience with gender discrimination lawsuits, believed the firm didn’t actually get away with anything. Medina told us: “Ellen Pao had her day—many days—in court, and the whole world knows now what goes on in that place. They’re going to have to do a lot to mend that reputation. This topic is not going to go away. It’s now at the forefront of public discourse.” One that many diversity advocates believe may escalate the issue beyond one person vs. an employer to class action suits that can instigate more sweeping changes.

Others speculated that the sheer surge of negative sentiment on social media could scare companies into self-policing their diversity in order to avoid a PR debacle down the road.

Apparently, KPCB doesn’t care what the general public thinks. The firm has offered Ellen Pao a new deal: Drop the case or pay us $1 million. If Pao chooses to let the case go, KPCB said they would move on without asking for any other compensation.

According to court papers filed in California Superior Court in San Francisco this week, the case cost KPCB $972,815 in witness fees, deposition, and court reporter costs-the majority ($864,680.25) of which was for witnesses.

Kleiner spokeswoman Christina Lee told the New York Times, “We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation.”

Unfortunately, Silicon Valley’s VC firms haven’t been so good at pursing this kind of progress. Freada Kapor Klein, a partner at venture capital firm Kapor Capital, says that for years she’s been mistreated and seen inappropriate things happen to women in the industry. A frequent refrain on Sand Hill Road has been ‘We don’t care who you are, what your background is—we fund the best ideas.” “We hear silly statements like, ‘You could be purple for all we care if you have a good idea, we’ll fund it,’ which turns out to be an aspiration and really far from the truth.”

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At the very least, KPCB could have made the request public in a more inclusive and progressive way. According to the report in the New York Times, Debra Katz, an attorney who specializes in gender discrimination, proposed this approach: “This was hard fought and we obviously disagree with your view, but it’s in the interest of all parties to walk away. In the meantime, there have been lessons learned and we are going to fund organizations that focus on glass ceiling issues.”

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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