Recently a San Francisco jury cleared prominent Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers of all charges of sexual discrimination and retaliation against a former female partner, the Wall Street Journal reported. Ellen Pao, who worked at the firm from 2005-12, filed the suit, alleging that management only assigned her menial jobs, refused to promote her based on her gender, and then fired her when she spoke out about the alleged discrimination. The firm countered by insisting that Ms. Pao failed to make any performance improvements after being told that she had several shortcomings in terms of the collaborative skills required to be a successful investor. Ms. Pao, currently the interim CEO of Reddit.com, had been seeking $16 million in damages as compensation. After the verdict came back in favor of the defendants, Ms. Pao gave a few positive statements and tweets about the legacy of her case.
A world watching
People love to follow a juicy court story, especially one that named a prominent company like Kleiner Perkins as a defendant and included testimony that name-dropped Al Gore. But this case involved more than celebrities and big sums of money.
The case has captivated a worldwide audience since Ms. Pao filed it three years ago, with some calling it a referendum on the widespread imbalance between men and women in the technology industry. The Wall Street Journal reported that over the three days leading up to the verdict, more than 4,000 people tweeted about the case, and it garnered more than 26,000 tweets over the past month. In addition to Ms. Pao’s case, Forbes reported that former employees of several high-profile technology companies have also filed similar gender discrimination lawsuits, including Chia Hong, a former Facebook program manager, and Tina Huang, a former software engineer at Twitter. But in light of the jury finding in favor of the defendants and against Ms. Pao, many curious onlookers might find themselves wondering what constitutes gender discrimination if this did not.
What is gender discrimination?
While the case did not end well for the plaintiff, it can still be a learning tool for others who may have been unfairly discriminated against in the workplace. While any situation involving alleged discrimination might leave you feeling uncomfortable, speaking with an experienced employment discrimination attorney can help alleviate any worries you might have while also informing you if the potential exists for filing a claim.
While every employer wants to hire someone to fit the company’s culture, they cannot discriminate against an applicant based on gender.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sex-based discrimination as treating someone (either an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of that person’s sex. The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.
In the Pao case, the jurors did not come to the conclusion the company discriminated against her. Despite Ms. Pao’s charges of sexism, inappropriate behavior, improper discussions between males during meetings, and exclusive, all-male dinner parties, the jury concluded the four-week trial by rendering a not guilty verdict. One of the alternate jurors, Erin Malone, a former technology engineer at Yahoo, told Firstpost that while Ms. Pao’s bosses had created a difficult workplace environment for women, it didn’t add up to discrimination. In addition, the fact that women made up 20 percent of the investing partners at Kleiner Perkins compared to the industry average of six percent might have helped to sway jurors in favor of the defendants.
Who can help?
Located in Buffalo, New York, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria provides clients with an unparalleled level of knowledge and legal know-how on all matters related to employment discrimination, whether they’ve been discriminated against based on gender, age, race, disability, religion, pregnancy, or family of origin. The firm’s highly acclaimed employment discrimination lawyers fight hard to help workers recover their jobs, receive back pay and benefits, extend health coverage, and win severance payouts and damages. Named to Super Lawyers for Employment and Labor, the distinguished employment discrimination lawyers at Lipsitz Green work diligently to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently, meeting tight deadlines and unique pre-suit conditions.
This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.