Ellen Pao's landmark gender discrimination case is not over yet
Former venture capitalist and current CEO of Reddit Ellen Pao has officially filed a notice of appeal in her landmark gender discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
For those less familiar, Pao sued the investment firm in 2012 after they allegedly failed to promote her because of her gender, thus failing to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace. Pao also alleged that the company retaliated against her for her complaints, and then ultimately fired her as a result. She requested $16 million in reparations, and the case finally went to trial earlier this year.
In March, a jury ruled in favor of Kleiner Perkins on all four counts — but even though Pao lost in court, it was perhaps the most high-profile case to ever bring light to sexism in Silicon Valley and not necessarily a major setback for discrimination overall. At the very least, it sparked a major conversation about how we treat women in the workplace and how we can begin to reverse ingrained sexism. As reported by the Associated Press, it even caused some technology and venture companies to “re-examine their cultures and practices for potential gender bias.” (Pao, for her own part, has made some pretty awesome changes at Reddit to try and combat gender discrimination.)
After the loss, Pao was asked to pay $972,814 in legal fees to Kleiner Perkins, but the firm offered to waive the fee if she agreed not to appeal. Disregarding potential financial costs, Pao filed her appeal at the San Francisco Superior Court on Monday. According to USA Today, the appeal cannot legally be decided by a jury, but instead has to be based on either “procedural or evidentiary grounds,” and Pao’s lawyers will have to file an appellate brief within the next 40 days.
Pao and her lawyer have not yet given public statements on the matter, so we don’t yet know on what grounds they plan to try and overturn the rulings. But Kleiner Perkins seems undeterred and uninterested in continuing the case in court.
“A 12-member jury found decisively in favor of KPCB [Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers] on all four claims,” Christina Lee, a spokesperson for the firm, told BBC. “We remain committed to gender diversity in the workplace and believe that women in technology would be best served by focusing on this issue outside of continued litigation.”
The original trial mostly rested on personal testimonies and internal documents — proof of just how difficult it can be to present tangible evidence in cases of gender discrimination. It was an extremely contentious case that quickly grew venomous for both parties. As Pao has voiced before, however, the case is about much more than financial reparations; which makes it much more complex than originally meets the eye.
“[The] fact that a lot of [discrimination] is subtle, that people have different views on where the line is, makes it a very worthwhile discussion,” Pao told The Wall Street Journal earlier this year. “I think we have moved through a lot of the really blatant issues that are clear-cut and now we’re getting to harder issues. When you look at the overall experience of women in the workplace, they are not succeeding, and that seems pretty clear-cut to me. So how do we fix that problem?”
That is the question, and perhaps, one the legal system can help to answer.