US-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has denied allegations made by a former partner, who is suing the company for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Kleiner Perkins, which has invested in the likes of Google, Groupon and Zynga, has been rocked by a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former junior partner Ellen Pao.
In the lawsuit, Pao alleges she was the victim of unwanted sexual advances from co-worker Ajit Nazre. According to Pao, the first “inappropriate” advances occurred in 2006 on a business trip.
Pao alleges Nazre continued his advances until she relented and began a personal relationship with him, also in 2006.
After ending the relationship, Pao alleges “Nazre started a consistent pattern of retaliation against her” by excluding her from business meetings, removing her from email discussions, etc.
Her complaint also alleges the firm as a whole failed to respond adequately when she brought the harassment to the attention of senior partners.
However, Kleiner Perkins has denied the allegations, with senior partner John Doerr issuing a statement.
According to Doerr, the company hired an independent investigator to conduct a thorough inquiry, but the investigator’s report concluded Pao’s allegations are “without merit”.
“In the end, facts – not unfounded claims – will determine the outcome of the suit filed against us. We will vigorously defend our reputation and are confident we will prevail,” Doerr said.
“But until this matter is resolved I hope those judging Kleiner Perkins will remember one thing about us: our pioneering track record in diversity.”