By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO, June 19 A high profile sex
discrimination lawsuit in Silicon Valley should be taken private
via arbitration, lawyers for venture capital firm Kleiner
Perkins Caufield & Byers argued on Wednesday, but the plaintiff,
former partner Ellen Pao, wants the chance to tell her story
before a judge.
A lawyer for Kleiner told a panel of state court appellate
justices on Wednesday that one reason the firm preferred
arbitration to litigation was to avoid disclosing the relative
compensation of Kleiner partners. Another reason, he said, was
to spare embarrassment to Pao.
The case involves sensitive issues such as Pao's sexual
relationship with another former partner. She was terminated in
October, five months after filing her lawsuit.
After the hearing, Pao said she was eager for the case to
"They continue to drag this out," she said after the hearing
about her former employer. "I just want my day in court."
The hearing centered around the issue of whether agreements
governing individual Kleiner funds that Pao signed should compel
the case into arbitration. Those agreements call for arbitration
of disputes rather than litigation.
The issues Pao is litigating involve economics of the funds
she was involved with," the firm said in a statement. "All of
those economic issues are governed by the Managing LLC
agreements which require that disputes be resolved through
Pao's lawyer, Alan Exelrod, argues that she was suing
Kleiner itself - not its funds. Pao never signed any
arbitration agreements with the firm itself, Exelrod says.
Last year, a judge in California Superior Court agreed with
Exelrod. Kleiner appealed.
The lawsuit has inspired debate especially in the Bay Area
on its specific merits as well as the broader issue of sexism in
the technology sector.
The justices have up to 90 days to issue a decision.
Until Pao's lawsuit, issues surrounding gender had largely
been brushed under the rug in the clubby world of venture
capital. Since the lawsuit was filed, female employees at
Pantheon and CMEA have also filed lawsuits alleging
discrimination, but the firms have a lower profile than Kleiner.
Kleiner Perkins, founded in 1972, has backed big-name firms
such as online retailer Amazon.com Inc, gaming company
Electronic Arts Inc, biotechnology company Genentech,
browser company Netscape, information-technology company Sun
Microsystems and gaming company Zynga Inc.
The case in Superior Court of the State of California is
Ellen Pao v Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC and Does 1-20,
case no. 12-520719.