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Kleiner Perkins files response to lawsuit, ‘vigorously denies’ discrimination

Venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers filed a response to Ellen Pao’s allegations of sexual discrimination by the company in California state court on Wednesday, “vigorously” denying those allegations and requesting Pao’s lawsuit be dismissed. The firm argued that Pao’s failure to advance within the company’s ranks was a result of her own performance, not sexual discrimination on the part of the company as Pao alleged.

A copy of Kleiner Perkins’ response can be found online here.

Pao filed a suit against the company in May, arguing that she faced sexual harassment from another partner who has since left the company, and that Kleiner Perkins systematically discriminated against female employees by excluding them from company business and denying them promotions based on their gender.

Pao joined Kleiner Perkins, one of the most well-known technology venture capital firms, in 2005. She has said she began facing sexual discrimination from former firm partner Ajit Nazre in 2006. Pao has continued to work at Kleiner Perkins since filing her suit.

The New York Times has posted a copy of Pao’s original lawsuit filed in California state court.

In the seven-page document, Kleiner Perkins argued that Pao failed to report her complaints to the company in a timely manner. The company emphatically rejected Pao’s claims, creating a sharp contrast with her suit, although not surprising as a legal tactic. The company wrote that Pao “twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist,” and that in previous company reviews, she was “not viewed as a good team player.”

Pao’s lawsuit has ignited debate in Silicon Valley about the degree to which the tech industry is a male-dominated field and unwelcoming to female businesswomen and entrepreneurs. GigaOM contributor Carla Cook Thompson, the CEO of Sharp Skirts, argued in a post on the “glass ceiling in tech” that no matter the outcome of Pao’s lawsuit, sexual discrimination in VC firms is still a huge issue:

 As for women in tech, and in business overall, we need to support Pao vociferously. She is, in essence, taking one for the team. We should all tip our hat to her.

And GigaOM reporter Katie Fehrenbacher wrote that venture capital and investment firms need to change their attitudes toward female investors if they want to capitalize on the talent and industry in Silicon Valley:

But the reality is that this old school, old boys club mentality, is one of the many things about the established venture capital community that will need to, and I think eventually will, change, purely for competitive reasons — not necessarily because Sand Hill Road all woke up one day and took a class on gender discrimination. If firms are under utilizing women investors and are seen as unfriendly to women founders, it’s a competitive disadvantage.

A hearing for Pao’s lawsuit is set for July 10, AllThingsD reports.

A copy of the Kleiner Perkins response is embedded below, courtesy of The New York Observer and Scribd:

Ellen Pao v Kleiner Perkins – June 13,2012

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