The recent verdict of a Californiasex discrimination and retaliation case for a female employee suing her venture capitalist employer has highlighted a number of potential problems that can arise with employees. Most importantly, it illustrates how important keeping current records and employee reviews can be to protect a company against employee claims.
Facts of the Case
In the case ofEllen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC and Does 1-20, Ellen Pao was hired at Kleiner Perkins as a junior partner at the venture capital firm. Over the course of her employment at the company, Ms. Pao claimed that she was subjected to extreme sex discrimination and retaliatory actions because she was a woman. This included failure to be promoted from her junior partner title to managing partner, denial of pay increases or bonuses, and promotion of male colleagues with less experience or qualifications.
In addition, Ms. Pao claimed that she was faced with retaliatory actions from another male colleague after they ended their relationship that included taking away clients, excluding her from business meetings and deals, physical harassment, and was also accused of similar behavior with another female junior partner at the company. Ms. Pao also pointed to the company’s all male ski trips, dinners, placing males on all big accounts, and asking women to take notes during meetings.
In contrast, the attorneys for Kleiner Perkins argued that Ms. Pao did not have the interpersonal skills or the ability to work well with others to succeed in the business. They pointed to her annual performance reviews that started positive but became increasingly negative during her time at the company. At trial, the jury found for Kleiner Perkins in all four counts of sex discrimination and retaliation.
Importance of Employee Reviews
One of the biggest problems in cases of sex discrimination is that there is typically not a lot of documented evidence in either direction. Most cases come down to a “he said, she said” and the jury picks who they find most believable. As a result,workplace evaluations can carry a lot of weight in a sex discrimination trial.
Kleiner Perkins rested the majority of their argument on Ms. Pao’s annual employee reviews. Her workplace evaluations described her as having below average interpersonal skills, “territorial,” “sharp elbows,” and having her own agenda. A memo from the company also showed that despite coaching and mentorship from her superiors, she did not improve.
This is an important lesson for other businesses that could potentially face issues of sex discrimination. Having a well-documented history of your employees’ interactions and reviews can help defend against claims of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace. It can highlight the fact that the employee simply did not live up to the expectations of the job, and not that the person was discriminated against based on gender or other discriminatory reasons.
Call a California Employment Law Attorney
If you have questions about how the Ellen Pao verdict or employee reviews could affect your business in Pleasanton, Alameda County, or the Tri-Valley area, let the experienced employment law attorneys atGarcia & Gurney, A Law Corporation help. Call the office orcontact us today for a private consultation of your case.
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