Ellen Pao Trial: Three Key Controversies You Need To Know About The Case

Ellen Pao trial

Ellen Pao is a name you are likely to see for years to come after a decision is finally made in her landmark case against her former employer Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers — one of the top venture capital firms in Silicon Valley.

In the opinion of some, the outcome of Ellen’s lawsuit could mean the beginning of a better standard to fight against gender discrimination in one the U.S.’ most important industries. Others see Pao’s situation as the opposite of the intended effect — a revenge suit that could derail future actions against gender discrimination. Here are some the key points of contention in the trial thus far.

1. Ellen is a Harvard Law graduate and the current CEO of Reddit, but does she still need money?

Pao’s lawsuit totals a $16 million payout on her behalf if she can prove that she faced systematic discrimination at her job. Some argue that Ellen’s successful career and competitive education background preclude her from merely launching the lawsuit in the pursuit of a paycheck, while others not that a sum of $16 million is a large sum for even the CEO of a one of the internet’s top sites.

Unfortunately for Kleiner, Judge Harold Kahn ruled that a possible monetary gain for Pao was not to be discussed in the case, reported USA Today. That’s something that Kleiner has appealed, and the Kahn will be deciding on Thursday. It’s likely Kleiner will bring up the bankruptcy of the hedge fund of Ellen’s husband, Alphonse Fletcher Jr. and other troublesome financial problems that have effected the couple.

2. Did Pao’s superior suggest she marry an ex-lover with whom she was working?

Ellen went to Ray Lane, the mentor of the co-worker Ajit Nazre with whom she had briefly had an affair, to complain that he was not including her in important office e-mails and conferences after she ended their relationship upon finding out that Nazre was lying to her about no longer being with his wife. Lane sent the following e-mail to Pao in response, reported ArsTecnica.

“I met my best friend and love of my life at work. In Texas, where my first wife and I filed for divorce, there was no legal separation. I started dating Stephanie three years after my ex and I were separated, but not officially divorced.”

Ellen has used this instance as an example of the toxic environment she faced while working at the company, but Kleiner’s lawyer is arguing that the story was not intended as a recommendation that Pao should rectify the situation with Ajit. Instead, he argues that it was only meant to illustrate the “complexities of inter-office relationships.”

3. Was Ellen penalized for being harsh and difficult to work with, or because she called out gender discrimination in the office?

In Wednesday’s trial, Pao told the court that she made another female co-worker, Trae Vassallo, cry after telling her that she was “untrustworthy,” reported Wired. Ellen sent lengthy e-mails to superiors pointing out other flaws that she felt Trae needed to address. In one such e-mail, Pao said, “Let me know when you think I’ve overstepped, but I think I have to break some glass to make it happen, and I’m not afraid to do it.” The defense also claims that Ellen had shown resentment for having to do the work of others and fighting with assistances due to tardiness.

Pao, however, claims that her problems in the office arose from her refusing to stand by when she saw male co-workers move up the ladder while she stayed behind.

More details are set to emerge from Ellen Pao’s trial as it continues this week.

[Image via Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]