Former Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers junior partner Ellen Pao is seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from her former employer for sex discrimination. But the eventual verdict now being deliberated by a six-man, six-woman San Francisco jury could be at least as complex as the gender bias issues the case has highlighted.
Pao alleges that the powerful venture capital firm held her back from promotions and other opportunities because she is a woman, then retaliated against her when she complained in 2011, and fired her when she filed a lawsuit in 2012. But rather than simply answering yes or no to those questions, the jury must fill out a seven-page verdict form with more than 30 questions. It could easily lead to a muddled verdict that gives neither side a clear-cut victory.
It also means that when the verdict is ultimately read in court—and instantly reported and tweeted around the world—it may not be what it initially seems.
For example, the jury could answer "yes" to the first question on Page 1—"Was Ms. Pao's gender a substantial motivating reason for Kleiner Perkins' not promoting Ms. Pao to senior partner?" But jurors could also answer "yes" to this question on Page 5: "Would Kleiner Perkins have failed to promote Ms. Pao anyway because of her poor job performance even if it had not also been motivated by gender discrimination and/or retaliation?"