Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Elaine Pao, CEO of Reddit, takes the stand

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Nitasha Tiku reports for Verge:

For the past two weeks, Ellen Pao has been sitting quietly at the plaintiff’s table while her former colleagues at Kleiner Perkins have painted her as a prickly careerist, ill-equipped for the high-stakes sausagefest of venture capital financing in Silicon Valley. Yesterday, at long last, it was Pao’s turn to speak. She has not disappointed.

Pao is now the CEO of Reddit. She is suing the venture capital firm for $16 million in damages, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation by Ajit Nazre, a Kleiner investor who was fired in 2012 for sexual harassment.

The self-assured woman who initially took the stand — quick with a smile, confident in her responses, literally leaning in to the microphone — was nothing like the picture her ex-managers conjured of an inexperienced junior partner, who couldn’t command a room. Before their relationship disintegrated, Pao’s mentor at Kleiner, billionaire John Doerr, urged her to use her dry sense of humor. That’s how she came across for most of yesterday, before the trial unraveled into its daily tailspin of performance reviews and emails chains.

There is lot riding on Pao’s credibility. Many of the headline-grabbing anecdotes from her complaint feel untrustworthy after hearing multiple perspectives. There are only so many versions of joking about porn stars on a private jet before everyone’s motivation seems suspect.

In its trial brief, Kleiner’s lawyer Lynne Hermle wrote: “Pao’s case rests largely on her own testimony— which is predominantly based on the self-serving notes she wrote throughout her employment that are inadmissible hearsay.” In other words, Kleiner wants to make the case that she was planning on suing them all along. Hermle’s objections like “triple hearsay and “backdoor hearsay” make Pao’s account seem less believable.

Pao is testifying right now and perhaps tomorrow and still hasn’t been questioned by Kleiner’s attorney, but here are the important revelations from her testimony so far.

At the center of Pao’s complaint is her relationship with Nazre, who directed some of Pao’s work with the green investment team. He allegedly “pressured her” into a brief, consensual affair in 2006, which Pao broke off when she found out that he had lied about still being married. When Nazre was fired in 2012, it was for sexually harassing Trae Vassallo, another female partner, not Pao.

This is where the retaliation allegations come into play. Pao said over and over on the stand that Nazre “made it difficult” for her to do her job by cutting her off from vital information and meetings. Pao also alleges that Kleiner retaliated against her because she would not stop complaining.

Yesterday, we learned why she was so relentless. Around the time she contemplated leaving Kleiner in 2007, Pao shared her concerns about Nazre with Juliet de Baubigny, the partner in charge of recruiting who unofficially handled some human resources issues. (At this point, Kleiner had invested in Google, Amazon, and Electronic Arts, but did not have an HR rep.) De Baubigny responded that she thought Nazre was “a sex addict.” Pao was surprised. “It was a strong phrase to use,” she said in court. Pao spoke with de Baubigny because she heard three administrative assistants dealt with harassment as well. Despite awareness of Nazre’s issues, he was soon promoted to senior partner.

Pao repeatedly said Kleiner did nothing to address her concerns. She brought up Nazre again in a self-review from 2009: “Because I continued to bring up the issue and Kleiner Perkins continued to do nothing.” According to Pao, Vassallo complained about Nazre in the summer and winter of 2011, and “they had done nothing. Twice.” In fact, she found out about Vassallo’s concerns when they went to see COO Eric Keller about other instances of gender bias at Kleiner.

Continue reading. There’s more.

BTW, keeping a timely record (which is what Elaine Pao did) is basic protocol when someone is being subjected to harassment, retaliation, inappropriate behavior, inappropriate comments, and the like. It’s to record at the time what happened so that you do not have to depend on memory. That the defendant and the lawyers the defendant is paying are attempting to portray keeping a timely record as somehow something that it is inappropriate to do indicates that they are arguing in bad faith.

However, see this account for a very different take.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

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