Jury rules Kleiner Perkins did not retaliate by firing Ellen Pao

ByTiffany Wilson and Laura Anthony KGO logo
Friday, March 27, 2015
Jury finds no retaliation in firing of Ellen Pao
The jury in the Ellen Pao gender discrimination lawsuit case has affirmed that Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins did not retaliate by firing Pao.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A decision was made Friday in a gender discrimination case against a high-powered venture capital firm.

Jurors reached a verdict late Friday that the company did not discriminate against Ellen Pao. Pao sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination.

It was a gender discrimination case that's received international attention. It included a sordid tale of backroom deals and good old boys club activities at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, but in the end, Kleiner Perkins prevailed.

The woman at the center of an historic gender discrimination lawsuit Ellen Pao took notes and shuffled through papers as each of her claims was denied by a San Francisco jury.

After the verdict, she read a prepared statement.

"If I've helped to level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital then the battle was worth it," she said. "Now it's time for me to get back to my career, my family and my friends."

Jurors were asked to determine whether Kleiner Perkins discriminated against Pao because she is a woman; failed to take reasonable steps to prevent that discrimination; and retaliated against her after she complained about gender bias by failing to promote her and then firing her.

In all four counts, the jury found venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers did not discriminate or retaliate against Pao.

"It never occurred to me for a second that a careful and attentive jury would find either discrimination or retaliation," said Lynne Hermle, attorney for Kleiner Perkins.

Juror number one, Steve Sammut, sided with Kleiner Perkins.

"Based on the testimony we heard, it probably had more to do with her sales ability and her ability to get along with people, her personality," said juror Steve Samut.

Sammut said Pao did well as chief of staff but the reviews documented weaknesses as an investor.

The decision against Pao was not unanimous. In fact, the jurors had to be polled by the judge a couple of times as to their specific answers to each of the many questions on the verdict form.

Juror two Marshalette Ramsey thought there was retaliation and voted in favor of Pao.

"It just seemed that the men were able, with those same character flaws that Ellen was cited with, were able to propel and continue on in their careers as Kleiner Perkins," Ramsey said.

Both jurors say they deliberated carefully and never considered the broader implications of this case.

Some believe Pao's loss will be a victory for others in the long run.

"No one cause rise or falls with once case and we can see there's been a suit now against Twitter now and Facebook," said Noreen Farrell, of Equal Rights Advocates. "I really do think Ellen Pao's bravery in standing up has activated and blown the lid off of issues of sexism in the industry."

Pao has not said if she will file an appeal, but given the totality of her losses Friday some may say an appeal would not stand a good chance.

The Associated Press contributed to this story