In 2012, Ellen Pao, a partner at the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sued the venerated venture capital firm for sexual harassment and discrimination. It was a more cloistered time and the allegations were shocking, creating a fissure in Silicon Valley's self-image and spurring a wider discussion about sexism in the tech industry.
However, a new ruling in the case will allow Kleiner Perkins to keep some of its skeletons hidden, potentially hurting Pao's case when it goes to trial in February. Reuters says the firm was "saved" by California privacy laws from releasing any other harassment complaints against Ajit Nazre, the former partner and alleged harasser:
A judge ruled Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, defending itself against allegations of discrimination and retaliation, will be able to keep to itself any other harassment complaints against former male partner at the center of the lawsuit, Ajit Nazre, in part because producing such complaints would hurt the privacy rights of other Kleiner employees.
Pao has since moved on to run business development and strategic partnerships at Reddit. Her suit also claims Kleiner denied her a promotion and better compensation after she brought the alleged harassment to the firm's attention.
The group that Pao's lawyers seek to compare her with comprises two other female junior partners and three male junior partners. The three males were promoted to senior partner in 2011, while none of the women were, the suit contends.
The lawyers will be able to review any guidelines or criteria for the allocation to junior partners of a lucrative type of compensation known as carried interest, but Kleiner doesn't have to conduct an email review for those documents, the judge said.
Pao's lawyers had argued that any other complaint against Nazre would shed light on his "behavioral tendencies." Kleiner's lawyers had said that because Pao's claims are limited to discrimination and retaliation, not harassment, Nazre's "behavioral tendencies" were irrelevant.
Pao had said in her suit that she "succumbed" to a brief affair with Nazre him in 2006 after he harassed her. Her subsequent refusal to continue a romantic relationship led to retaliation and discrimination, she claimed.
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[Image via Kleiner Perkins]