A former partner at a prominent venture capital firm in Northern California’s Silicon Valley is in a legal dispute with her former employers over her termination. The woman is charging retaliation, while the firm is saying that she was fired for “longstanding performance issues.”
The employee’s litigation against her employers, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, began in May 2012 while she was still working there. She accused the firm of gender discrimination, retaliation and harassment that went as far back as 2006 – just one year after she joined the firm. According to an article in Fortune magazine, one of her complaints was that a sexual harassment complaint that she made involving one of the other partners was not handled adequately.
KPCB contends that the plaintiff did not make them aware of any of these issues until she sought legal representation. In October of 2012, she was terminated. The former partner says that she was fired because of her lawsuit.
KPCB says that it sought to deal with the charges in a private venue via arbitration. However, the courts, including the California Supreme Court, ruled against that. Now the firm is fighting back publicly. They point to a poor performance review that she received back in 2011. That review noted that she was not a “good team player” or trusted by others in the firm.
In the Fortune magazine article, KPCB says it was these performance issues that were the reason she was not receiving the promotions that male colleagues were and that it had nothing to do with gender. The firm says that the performance problems that her superiors brought to her attention did not improve, and that is why they fired her.
The plaintiff is asking for back pay, future wages and investment interest, as well as punitive damages. Her attorney says that they look forward to telling her side of the story in court.
We have seen a number of cases where employees have filed grievances and lawsuits against their employers, only to find themselves dismissed shortly afterward. Any employee who believes that they were terminated for illegal reasons, including discrimination or retaliation, can and should seek legal advice to ensure that their rights are protected.
The Wall Street Journal, “Kleiner Perkins Denies Retaliation in Gender Discrimination Case” Deborah Gage, Nov. 22, 2013