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Lawyers ask for arbitration in high profile discrimination case

Ex-Kleiner partners claim they want to avoid embarrassment for plaintiff

Lawyers for the defendants in a high profile sexual discrimination suit are asking that the case be arbitrated, rather than heard by a panel of state court justices.

The suit against several partners of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers—based in the Silicon Valley—was filed by former Kleiner partner Ellen Pao. Pao was fired in October 2012, five months after filing her suit.

Details of her complaint are unclear, but lawyers say they involve Pao’s sexual relationship with another Kleiner partner. Lawyers for the defendants claim they would like the case arbitrated for two reasons: to avoid disclosing compensation information of Kleiner executives and to spare Pao embarrassment.

Pao, however, wants her “day in court,” she said after the hearing this week. “They continue to drag this out.”

Kleiner disagrees. “The issues Pao is litigating involve economics of the funds she was involved with," the firm said in a statement. "All of those economic issues are governed by the Managing LLC agreements which require that disputes be resolved through arbitration."

Pao argued that she is suing the company itself, not the fund. And a lower court judge agreed with her. Kleiner appealed.

The suit has garnered a lot of attention because it underscores issues of sex discrimination, particularly in the tech sector.

The justice panel has 90 days to issue its decision.

Read more about this story on Thomson Reuters.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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