SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - Venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has appealed a California judge’s decision that an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by one of its partners should stay in court rather than move to arbitration as Kleiner had requested.
The appeal, which was expected and could take months, seems likely to keep one of Silicon Valley’s higher-profile cases in the public eye for now. The lawsuit, brought by Kleiner Partner Ellen Pao, 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.
Kleiner’s attorney, Lynne Hermle, filed a one-page appeal on July 24, but the documents were not processed until this month, court records show. The court will request a brief outlining her arguments for appeal at a later stage, Hermle said by email.
Hermle argued in lower court that Pao had signed agreements to arbitrate disputes, but Pao’s attorney, Alan Exelrod, said the agreements were with individual funds managed by Kleiner. Pao’s lawsuit is against the firm as a whole.
At the time of the July hearing where Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn told Hermle he disagreed with her arguments, Kleiner said it was disappointed with the decision and said arbitration would be faster and more efficient than a court case.
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 “buzz” kills.
In response, Kleiner characterized Pao as an underperforming partner who never told the firm she was unhappy with her treatment by male colleagues.
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 Court of Appeal of the State of California is Ellen Pao v Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC and Does 1-20, case no. A136090.