The 2012 case of Ellen Pao versus Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was a turning point in the tech industry. It opened the floodgates for more recent revelations about sexism, harassment, and assault in tech, such as those from Susan Fowler Rigetti.
The technicality that brought Pao’s case to mainstream attention revolved around private companies’ use of forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts. A judge ruled that the venture capital firm couldn’t force Pao into binding arbitration, which paved the way for the case to go to court. Without that ruling, it’s likely that Kleiner Perkins would have kept the case out of the headlines and the public might not have known how pervasive these issues are in the tech industry. That’s exactly why these clauses exist — and exactly why they shouldn’t.
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