By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO, July 20 Venture-capital firm
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers said o n F riday it would appeal
a California judge's decision that an employment discrimination
case brought by one of its partners should stay in court rather
than move to arbitration as Kleiner had requested.
The appeal, which could take months, seems likely to keep
one of Silicon Valley's higher-profile cases in the public eye
for now. Kleiner Partner Ellen Pao's suit has become the talk of
the Bay Area, inspiring debate on its merits as well as the
broader question of sexism in the technology industry.
"I thought your papers were terrific," Superior Court Judge
Harold Kahn told Kleiner lawyer Lynne Hermle in a court hearing
earlier on Fr iday. "I just disagreed with them."
In a statement, Kleiner said it was disappointed in the
decision and would appeal.
"Ms. Pao, like other partners, signed a variety of standard
agreements and it is these agreements with the managing LLCs
that govern her claims and require, among other things, that
disputes be resolved through arbitration," a spokesperson
said. "We expect arbitration to be a more efficient and speedier
dispute resolution process than trying a matter before a jury
years down the line in the San Francisco Superior Court."
Pao's lawsuit paints a picture of a firm where complaints
against harassment went ignored, where a senior partner
suggested that marrying the alleged harasser might be the
solution to Pao's difficulties, and where women were labeled
In response, Kleiner characterized Pao as an underperforming
partner who never told the firm she was unhappy with her
treatment by male colleagues.
The firm sought to move the case to arbitration last month,
saying the agreements governing various Kleiner funds mandated
it. The firm argued that Pao was knowledgeable about her
Pao attorney Alan Exelrod has argued that Pao was suing the
Kleiner firm itself - not its funds. Pao never signed any
arbitration agreements with the firm, Exelrod argued.
But Kleiner attorney Hermle charged in court on Friday and
in a filing o n T hursday that Pao was trying to have it both
ways, suing the firm for discrimination even after signing
agreements that seemingly acknowledged the authority of the
funds rather than the firm in key areas.
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,
County of San Francisco is Ellen Pao v Kleiner Perkins Caufield
& Byers LLC and Does 1-20, case no. 12-520719.