Friday, March 27, 2015

Ellen Pao's Lawsuit Ends In A Kleiner Perkins Clean Sweep

The news came out earlier today that Ellen Pao's lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins came out snake eyes for the plaintiff. I don't have a good handle on the particulars of the case yet, as I haven't read the trial brief, but this does not look, even from Verge's biased telling, as though Pao's would be anything but a weak case. She fought Kleiner Perkins, who has historically hired more women than is typical in Silicon Valley, and maybe more importantly, could call on partner Mary Meeker, an epic defender of frauds during the height of the first wave of dot-com collapses who subsequently failed up from Morgan Stanley to Kleiner Perkins. Perhaps knowing what she owed them, she was all too happy to provide a good story for Kleiner. If the feminist mob that "needs a win" in their legal and other campaigns against perceived sexism would seek her head for this, they'll first need to grapple with the fact that "ethical fluidity is not a liability in Silicon Valley". That is to say, at first glance, Pao's case appears to have been a weak one, and she had bad legal advice in pursuing it.

Update 3/28/2015: Upon rereading the Verge piece linked above, a couple passages popped out at me for what they actually said first about the story and second about Pao herself:
[T]here’s an expectation — a fantasy, even — of what putting Silicon Valley on trial for sexism should look like. But Meeker’s statements on the witness stand served as another reminder that this lawsuit is not Ellen Pao vs. Institutionalized Sexism. This is Ellen Pao invoking California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and possibly coming up short.
This is Verge author Nitisha Tiku going off the deep end, willfully blinding herself to the reality that just happened. One does not sue under Fair Employment acts without it being a case of discrimination; the hope, I suppose, is that if we can call it something else, maybe our worldview won't have to be altered. Try again, Nitisha. And then, this (emboldening mine):
Where Pao had notebook after notebook of complaints, Meeker could not have seemed less bothered by the state of affairs. ...
 Who the hell keeps a journal of insults at work — except perhaps someone who always planned to sue in the first place? This is the action of a brittle, thin-skinned, and humorless individual.

Update 3/28/2015 11:49 PDT: Entitlement mentality kicks in, in particular, this:

"Level the playing field for everyone" = "make me partner or I'll sue you because I have a vagina/the right skin color/the right surname/etc." Yeah, no.

Update 3/29/2015: Pretty good summary of predictable media reaction from Joe Concha at Mediaite:
As you can imagine, it’s virtually impossible to find a column that actually supports the jury’s decision to dismiss all counts. That Mashable headline is almost correct, but should be modified to read: Ellen Pao trial loss sends shock waves through media establishment that really, really wanted her to win and never imagined a jury would actually dismiss every claim she entered

A bit cumbersome, but more accurate nonetheless.

And so it goes when it comes to a gang-rape that never happened at UVA…or a recklessly false narrative out of Ferguson… or Ellen Pao’s multiple claims of discrimination that a jury didn’t buy:

Facts mean little. It’s the conversation that comes afterward that matters.

Even if that conversation is built on a house of cards.


  1. "Who the hell keeps a journal of insults at work — except perhaps someone who always planned to sue in the first place?"

    Actually, this is very common advice given to people who feel harassed or intimidated in their workplace, or who have any issues that may need escalation -- to "document, document, document." People suffering workplace (or domestic) abuse are advised to keep a journal of what happened, what was said, and when, as soon after each incident as possible. You're fortunate to be unaware of this. It horrifies me to see that following recommended procedure can be seen by an uninformed bystander as proof that the plaintiff had unsavoury motives.

    "Brittle, thin-skinned, and humourless" are some of the most common adjectives used to belittle and dismiss the complaints of those who are being treated badly. This case aside -- in which I have no vested or other interest -- I urge you to reconsider your assumption that a person being harmed needs to toughen up and take it.

    1. One more thing that's worth mentioning here: Pao's husband Buddy Fletcher was similarly and trivially litigious, in the "either I get what I want or you're a racist" way that sounds awfully familiar to those paying attention to Pao's case.

  2. And this exemplifies what is wrong with sexual harassment law: everything is harassment, so write it down. At that point, the person is only and exclusively about their own jackpot-seeking agenda, and not the titular mission of the company.