Ellen Pao, who had worked for the technology giant Kleiner Perkins for seven years is suing her former employer for sex discrimination over accusations that they routinely withheld raises and promotions from female staff and excluded them from company dinners because they ‘killed the buzz’.
Ms Pao claims that she was pressured into having sex with a senior and influential married colleague and claims that after ending the relationship she was pursued by him for five years. Having rejected him, the court documents say she endured years of harassment by the Partner, which the firm effectively turned a blind eye to.
Ms Pao was dismissed from the company in 2012, six months after filing the lawsuit and claims that she was pushed out over her discrimination complaints. The firm counters that she was let go because of frequent clashes with colleagues and because of poor performance.
Kleiner Perkins has denied acts of discrimination, along with accusations that it did not take reasonable steps to prevent the alleged treatment.
Women represent under a third of the workforce at technology companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook, and at executive level this figure drops to just 14%. This is not the first case to draw attention. Last year, dating app Tinder settled out of court after a female former employee and ex-girlfriend of the firm’s co-founder accused him of firing her as he said having a woman on a board 'makes the company seem like a joke'.
Ms Pao’s case will be heard by a jury of seven women and five men and is set to last for a month.
If you are concerned about a case of discrimination in your company, or feel that you are the victim of discrimination, contact a member of our Employment Team on 01279 755777.