Kleiner questions whether ex-partner Pao raised HR concerns

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 11, 2015 2:19 PM

By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers tried to undercut a former partner's claims that she flagged "loosey-goosey" personnel policies at the venture firm but was ignored, as its lawyer cross-examined her for a second day.

Ellen Pao had previously testified that she told senior Kleiner partners that the firm's human resources policies were too lax as early as 2007, but nothing was done to address her concerns. Pao, who left the firm in 2012, is suing the firm for gender discrimination and retaliation in a move that helped spark a broad and ongoing conversation about gender issues in Silicon Valley.

In San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday, Kleiner attorney Lynne Hermle displayed several emails written by Pao to senior partners, including senior partner John Doerr, about a brief affair she had with a colleague. Pao has claimed she faced retaliation for breaking off the affair, first from the colleague and eventually from other senior Kleiner executives.

"I'm sorry to have brought stress into your life with the issues I raised," Pao wrote in the email.

Hermle asked if Pao had mentioned anything about HR policies in her correspondence. "No," Pao answered.

Into the third week of this case, Kleiner's cross examination of Pao marks the first time that she has been on the defensive about her 7-year tenure at the firm, best known for backing Amazon, Google, and other iconic technology companies.

The first witness in the case, former Kleiner partner Trae Vassallo, was called by Pao's attorneys to testify about unwanted advances Vassallo suffered from the same male colleague Pao had the affair with. Vassallo also described additional slights at the hands of male senior partners.

During cross examination on Wednesday, however, Hermle questioned Pao about tension in her own relationship with Vassallo. At one point, Pao acknowledged she heard she made Vassallo cry in the office after accusing her of being untrustworthy.

The case is Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC, CGC-12-520719, in California Superior Court, in the County of San Francisco.