Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the U.S. venture capital firm that provided startup financing to Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., said it’s transitioning partner Ellen Pao out of the partnership.
Pao sued the firm in May, alleging Kleiner treated female employees unfairly by promoting and compensating them less than men. She posted a comment on Quora, a question-and-answer website, yesterday that said she had been fired from the firm and was asked not to return.
“Ms. Pao’s Quora post is misleading,” Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner, said in an e-mail. “She remains an employee of the firm. Because of long-standing issues having no relationship or bearing on the litigation, Kleiner approached Ms. Pao to facilitate her transition, over an extended period of time, out of the firm.”
Pao sued the firm May 10, saying she was unfairly treated after she complained about sexual harassment. She said in her complaint that she “succumbed” to the advances of a married Kleiner junior partner in 2006 who had pressured her to have a sexual relationship. After she ended it, the co-worker, who was later promoted to senior partner, retaliated against her over the next five years, she said.
Male junior partners at Kleiner were allowed to add multiple board positions and investment sponsorships each year while female junior partners were limited to one, Pao alleged in her complaint in state court in San Francisco. Female employees were awarded smaller shares of the firm’s profits from investment funds it manages than those given to male employees, Pao said.
On Quora, Pao said she was fired from her job and asked to immediately leave the firm.
“I have been terminated from my job at KPCB,” Pao said on Quora. “On Monday afternoon, senior management told me to clean out my office, leave, and not come back.”
John Doerr, Kleiner’s lead partner, has said Pao’s lawsuit is “without merit,” based on the results of an independent investigation that found the firm doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender. Kleiner took “great care to treat this situation seriously, swiftly and with integrity,” he said in a May 30 statement.
In July, Kleiner lost attempts to have Pao, an employee there since 2005, move her sex-discrimination claims to arbitration rather than proceed with a state lawsuit. California Judge Harold Kahn said he didn’t agree with Kleiner’s position that Pao’s claims had to be sent to arbitration because no arbitration agreement existed between her and the firm.
The case is Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC, CGC-12-520719, California Superior Court (San Francisco).