Firm Not Guilty of Gender Bias in Ellen Pao Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 27, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A jury in an infamous Silicon Valley sexual harassment case issued a partial verdict on Friday, clearing the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers of gender discrimination. Ellen Pao, a former female partner at the firm, had claimed that she was not promoted because of her gender and that her working environment was hostile to women.

Pao also claimed the firm retaliated against her after she filed her suit against in 2012. The jury has yet to come to a consensus on the retaliation claim.

Sex in Silicon Valley

Pao's lawsuit laid bare the situation of female executives in the male-dominated industry of tech financing. Pao claimed her career at Kleiner faltered following a brief affair a married colleague. Her lawyers argued that the male partner and Kleiner started retaliating against her, in a corporate culture that was already unfriendly toward women.

Pao testified for five days in the case, facing questions from both Kleiner's defense team and from jurors. In the end the jury cleared Kleiner on three claims: that her gender and claims of gender discrimination were the reason she was not promoted, and that Kleiner failed to take reasonable steps to prevent gender discrimination at the firm.

One Verdict Left

The jury also voted eight to four in favor of Kleiner on a fourth claim by Pao, that the firm retaliated against her since she filed her lawsuit. However, jurors must at least have a 9-3 vote on any count to reach a valid verdict. Kleiner may be liable for some damages if the jury finds the lawsuit was a "substantial motivating reason for Kleiner Perkins' decision to terminate Ms. Pao's employment".

Therefore, the judge asked the jury to deliberate further on the claim to see if they could reach a consensus, and as of late Friday afternoon, the jury had yet to come back with a verdict.

UPDATE: After further deliberation, the jury also found for Kleiner Perkins on the retaliation claim, meaning Pao lost on all four claims against her former employer.

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