Ellen Pao famously lost her sexual discrimination case against her former employer Kleiner Perkins last month, but the story has taken another twist this week.
Pao is still adamant that she was denied a promotion because she was a woman and was expected to appeal the court's decision. However, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers is now offering Pao a new deal. The venture capital firm is telling Pao that if she promises not to appeal that it will not pursue the former associate for legal fees from the failed case, which amount to nearly $1 million dollars.
The offer was made in papers filed this week in California Superior Court in San Francisco. Clearly, Kleiner Perkins doesn't want any more of the bad publicity that the gender discrimination case brought. In the filing the firm claims that it incurred $972,815 in witness fees, deposition and court reporter costs during the high-profile case. Although the jury denied all of Pao's claims in its March 27 decision, legal fees were never on the table. Pao was originally seeking $16 million from the firm, which she claimed discriminated against her because of her gender and retaliated against her after she filed the lawsuit.
"We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation," said Christina Lee, a Kleiner spokeswoman.
Kleiner's offer to withdraw its costs request in exchange for an end to the case is common when defendants prevail in employment lawsuits. Pao has not said publicly whether she intends to pursue an appeal. The grounds on which she could appeal are uncertain, and the stats would suggest that she is unlikely to be successful. According to Westlaw data, only 5 of the 31 discrimination cases appealed to California's First District Court of Appeal were overturned. Westlaw is a research and proprietary database service for lawyers and legal professionals.
Pao, who is currently serving as interim CEO at Reddit, brought the case when she claimed she was forced out of Kleiner Perkins by a boys' club attitude discriminating against women. Her lawyers argued that her decline in the company started following a brief affair she had with a partner and that she was passed over for promotion purely because of her gender. But the jury decided that poor performance reviews halted Pao's promotion ambitions rather than any sexual discrimination.
Given that 84 percent of these appeals fail, Pao might be inclined to accept her former employer's offer. On the other hand, Pao is a wealthy woman and would probably be able to handle the large fees even if she did lose. She has not yet made any comment on this week's filing so we're just going to have to wait and see what move she makes.