Ellen Pao should have been more professional when she left, argues Kleiner Perkins

Pao standingRobert Galbraith/ReutersEllen Pao enters the San Francisco Superior County courthouse on March 2, 2015

The Ellen Pao trial continued in an aggressive vein today as counsel for her former employer, venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, portrayed her as unprofessional in the way she left her job.

Pao is suing the firm for gender discrimination, alleging that it denied her opportunities because of her gender. She’s seeking $US16 million in damages.

Taking the same harsh tone as yesterday, the firm’s lawyer Lynne Hermle didn’t let up on her examination of Pao.

“Looking back to your allegations of discrimination and retaliation, is it correct that the only negative thing that happened to you at Kleiner that wasn’t discrimination and retaliation was getting hit by a taxi in Germany?” asked Hermle right before concluding her questioning, per a Re/code liveblog.

“I’m not sure,” answered Pao.

Most of Hermle’s questions today hinged on Pao’s conduct around leaving Kleiner Perkins. When Pao was fired, she informed her portfolio companies without telling them who was replacing her. She also changed her incoming voicemail to give callers the grim message that she had been terminated.

Hermle says that Pao’s actions were unprofessional — in fact, if she had proceeded with a more orderly transition when she left the company, Kleiner Perkins would have kept her bio up on its website for six months and paid her a generous severance, she said. Moreover, accepting the severance wouldn’t have interfered with her ability to pursue this lawsuit. Instead, Hermle argued that by not accepting this transition period, she effectively quit instead of being fired.

“It was the right thing to do in my mind,” Pao said in her defence.

“It was the right thing for you,” Hermle replied.

Pao and her lawyer contend that she never had the option of the orderly transition Kleiner Perkins says it wanted; she was terminated summarily and asked to leave, and in fact, her voicemail message gave a number to call with any business inquiries, making it sound a lot less ominous. She received some, but not all, of her severance, mainly because it was contingent on her not being employed elsewhere and she had already started working at Reddit.

After Hermle concluded her questioning, Pao’s attorney Therese Lawless took her turn once more to cross-examine Pao, which didn’t turn up very much new information except to reaffirm that Pao had positive relationships with her portfolio companies.

In good news for Pao, the judge denied Kleiner Perkins’ attempt to introduce Pao’s husband’s poor financial situation into the case as a potential motive for filing this lawsuit in the first place, on the grounds that it’s an “unseemly sideshow” that would violate Pao’s family’s privacy.

This is a hurdle for Kleiner Perkins, which has been attempting to poke every hole it can in Pao’s stated mission of taking this case to court to effect change and make sure her story can be told.

Pao’s lawsuit is ongoing. This afternoon, former Kleiner Perkins COO Eric Keller will testify, which is technically out of order, but apparently this is the only day that he can appear in court.

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