Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao is suing the firm over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination according to a filing with the California Superior Court.
Pao claims former KPCB partner Ajit Nazre threatened to damage her career after she refused his sexual advances, and said when she complained to managing partner Ray Lane he suggested she should marry the man.
She also accuses fellow partner Randy Komisar of inappropriate behaviour including giving her sexually-themed poetry by Leonard Cohen as a Valentine’s Day gift.
The lawsuit says the firm habitually discriminated against women by offering them fewer board seats, a lower percentage of profits and leaving them out of exclusive business dinners as they would “kill the buzz”.
A statement from KPCB spokeswoman Christina Lee said the venture firm was one of the first to hire women partners and had actively supported women in every respect.
She said, “The firm regrets that the situation is being litigated publicly and had hoped the two parties could have reached resolution, particularly given Pao’s seven-year history with the firm.
“Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter.”
Pao, who is still listed as a partner on the firm’s website, joined KPCB in 2005 and is a founder member of its investment committee.
She serves on the board of directors for portfolio companies Lehigh Technologies, Datameer and Flipboard.
KPCB has gained a reputation for picking winners since it was founded in 1972, having backed companies including Amazon, Electronic Arts and Zynga.
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