Ellen Pao drops appeal in discrimination case

The high-profile diversity trial won't continue after the plaintiff moves on

After three and a half years of legal wrangling, Ellen Pao will no longer be appealing the discrimination case she filed against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Pao alleged in the case that she was discriminated against during her time at the firm and that when she complained internally, Kleiner Perkins retaliated by firing her. A jury eventually ruled against Pao on all four counts that she brought against Kleiner Perkins. 

In an op-ed posted on Re/code, Pao said she decided to end the high-profile and widely reported case because she couldn't have footed the bill for Kleiner's legal expenses should she lose on appeal. She's already on the hook for the firm's costs after losing the initial trial earlier this year. 

In her view, the experience she's had with her case, which came to symbolize the struggle of marginalized groups against pervasive discrimination in the tech business, shows how difficult it is for people to address discrimination in the industry. 

"In the absence of effective internal company solutions, one option is the legal system," she wrote. "Since bringing my case, I discovered that the court system today is not well-designed to address these issues, either."

A particular example of that, in her view, was that jurors who expressed a belief that there was sexism in the tech industry were not allowed to serve on the case. 

In addition to citing problems in the legal system, she also laid out what she sees as myriad resource advantages her former employer had in the fight against her. She argued that her former employer's financial resources provided several advantages, including the ability to vastly outspend her on expert witnesses and purchase court transcripts.

In addition, Pao pointed out that Kleiner reportedly had four public-relations representatives working for it, while she "didn't have the time or resources" to speak with reporters. The fact that the firm could give journalists its perspective on the case contributed to a wave of online abuse she received, Pao said.  

Pao said she plans to keep working in the tech industry. She encouraged companies not to silence employees who raise concerns about discrimination and harassment. 

"Instead allow balanced and complete perspectives to come out publicly so we can all learn and improve," Pao wrote. "I and many others are eager to hear more stories being shared by women and minorities."

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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