Former Kleiner Perkins partner Trae Vassallo testified in court on Tuesday that she was harassed by the same partner that Ellen Pao named in her discrimination lawsuit against her former employer.
Both women worked for Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, a famous venture capital firm that’s invested in tech giants like Amazon and Google.
Pao is seeking $US16 million in damages from the firm, alleging the firm discriminated against her, denying her promotions and chances at big deals, because of her gender.
As part of her suit, Pao claims she was pressured into having an affair with partner Ajit Nazre, and was subjected to harassment after it ended. The firm eventually fired her. Nazre left in 2011.
Kleiner Perkins has said that Pao failed at the firm because she was difficult to get along with, and did not have the necessary skills to thrive. In opening arguments, attorney Lynne Hermle said Pao was asked to move on because she had failed to perform as a junior partner at the company.
Vassallo was the equivalent of a junior partner — the same as Pao — before becoming a general partner at Kleiner. She left the firm last September.
In her testimony, Vassallo described an uncomfortable incident with Nazre in 2009, when she said he made unwelcome advances toward her under the pretense of a work meeting.
“We went to a bar in Palo Alto to talk green tech strategy,” she said. “He started touching me with his leg under the table. I stopped him immediately.”
Vassallo said she told Nazre that she wasn’t interested in a relationship and that he was “hot and cold” toward her after the incident.
Although Vassallo told Kleiner about what had happened with Nazre, he allegedly continued pursuing her when both of them were in New York in 2011.
“He set up a dinner with a particular person who’s very well known in an industry and could be very helpful to one of my portfolio companies, and asked if I wanted to join the dinner,” she said.
When Vassallo arrived at the restaurant for dinner, the third member of their party was nowhere to be found, she testified.
“I started to think, maybe this meeting wasn’t a real meeting,” said Vassallo.
After the dinner, Vassallo said Nazre showed up at the door of her hotel room in a bathrobe and slippers.
“I eventually pushed him out and closed the door,” she said.
When Vassallo met with partner emeritus Ray Lane about what had happened he allegedly joked “you should be flattered,” and asked what she wanted him to do.
Under cross-examination Vassallo said that Kleiner investor John Doerr was committed to bringing women to the firm. But the firm’s lawyers did not ask her about the alleged incidents with Nazre.