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Ellen Pao Vs. Kleiner Perkins Gender Discrimination Trial Could Blow Up Silicon Valley

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In the case of Ellen Pao, a former partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, her impending trial could unload a significant amount of dirty laundry about Silicon Valley to the greater public.

Seeking $16 million in back pay and for future wage losses, Pao, is accusing the longtime venture capital firm of gender discrimination and retaliation. After facing years of sexual harassment and discrimination, this case proceeds to blow the lid off how women are treated in Silicon Valley.

With the case underway since this past Tuesday, Pao's high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit was actually filed nearly three years ago, and is now, finally, heading to a courtroom. Jury selection, according to The Wall Street Journal, is slated to begin this upcoming Monday, with attorneys' opening statements coming after that.

Pao alleges that she was subjected to gender discrimination and retaliation for about six years after complaining about the conduct of a male colleague who she said pressured her into a brief affair back in 2006. The firm, which is one of Silicon Valley's oldest and largest entities, earned their reputation with such hits as Netscape, Genentech, Google, and Amazon.

The lawsuit has raised the ire of many who believe that issues such as sexism and gender inequality are prevalent within the tech industry. In response to such claims, other tech firms are beginning to release their own workforce diversity data in order to showcase improving gender and racial balances in the workplace.

Court documents allege that Pao endured five years of retaliation for rebuffing the sexual advances from her senior partners. The company is also claimed to have discriminated against Pao and other female employees when it came to promotions and pay. Pao, who now serves as the interim CEO of Reddit, left the firm in 2012, but the circumstances of her departure are in dispute.

Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers has argued that the charges filed by Pao are without merit and claimed in court documents that Pao "has twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist." In October 2012, Pao wrote that she had been "terminated" and ordered "to clean out my office, leave, and not come back." The firm, which lost a bid for arbitration in 2013, countered by calling the dismissal a "performance issue" and produced annual performance reviews that described her as "territorial," "passive," and not a "good team player."

The trial is expected to take four weeks, but could be avoided if both parties decide to settle out of court.

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