Ellen Pao, an employee in the high-tech sector, lost her high-profile sexual discrimination case against a prominent venture capital firm. Pao had filed a $16 million lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. A jury of six men and six women ruled that the company had not discriminated against Pao on the basis of her gender.
Pao was fired from Kleiner Perkins in 2012. The trial lasted about one month, and kept the technology industry riveted, because the normally secretive practices of high-tech companies were being made public. At the trial, Pao alleged that she was excluded from all-male excursions; forced to listen to discussions of porn stars on business trips; and even invited to a partner’s home for dinner when his wife was out of town. Pao claimed during the trial that she was not promoted despite her good work performance and that she was fired after she wrote a memo alleging that she was discriminated against based on her gender.
Pao has vowed to appeal and says that she has no regrets about suing. Despite the loss, many are hailing this as a landmark case. The case exposed the boy’s club atmosphere of one of the most famous technology companies in Silicon Valley. The case will likely also cause many companies to consider how they have been treating their female employees.
Currently, the venture capital industry is only six percent female. These venture capital companies tend to invest mostly in companies that are led by men. Between 2011 and 2013, only 15 percent of startups that received funding from venture capital firms such as Kleiner Perkins had a female executive.
Although this case has been decided, the issue of sex discrimination in the high-tech industry isn’t going away anytime soon. Two lawsuits were recently filed against Facebook and Twitter by former employees, both of whom are Asian-American women, who alleged that they were discriminated against on the basis of gender. Pao has said that race also plays a factor in the mostly white high-tech field – she has privately heard from men of different races who worked in the high-tech industry who had complaints similar to hers.
Unfortunately, although many women in the high-tech industry are frequently marginalized, women who earn low wages are more likely to encounter sex discrimination. Often, women who earn low wages are scared to speak up about it, for fear of being fired, or of being deported if they are in the country illegally. According to a report from the Pew Research Center, 18 percent of women say that they have been discriminated against at work. About 25 percent of women have reported that they have been sexually harassed at work. Pregnant women in the workplace have been terminated or discriminated against because of their pregnancies, while other employees with temporary medical conditions are given extra benefits.
Although women have made a great deal of progress in the workplace in the last few decades, clearly there is still a long way to go. Women often face sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, despite state and federal laws outlawing discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender. If you have faced gender or pregnancy discrimination or harassment at work, you should speak with an employment attorney. You have legal rights, and an attorney can help you protect those rights.
If you are in the Oakland area, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland sexual discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that any employer who engages in or allows sexual discrimination or harassment to occur in the workplace should be held legally responsible. Call Liberty Law to learn more about how we can help your situation.