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California sexual harassment suit is a drop in industry's bucket

Some of California's business sectors -- such as the technology industry centered in Silicon Valley -- have been male dominated since their inception. Though some women do find success in this field, there are still a number of barriers to success and fair treatment. This fact has the potential to cause numerous problems for female employees.

One California woman is suing her employer, a tech investment firm, over alleged violations of employment laws designed to protect employees from sexual harassment. The firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfied & Byers, is a prominent company, made famous by early, lucrative investments in Google and Amazon.

The woman began working with the firm in 2005, when she was hired as a junior partner and chief of staff for a senior partner. According to the woman, she experienced a hostile work environment almost immediately after being hired. She claims another junior partner constantly approached her with unwanted sexual advances after she broke off a brief relationship with the man. He also withheld important business information she necessary to perform her job.

In addition, she says she received a book containing sexually explicit material from a senior partner. Furthermore, the woman claims she was excluded from trips and dinner parties hosted by the firm, to which only male employees were invited.

Under California and federal employment laws, employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their gender. If an employer is treating female employees differently than men, or is committing or condoning, unwanted sexual advances, jokes or comments to be made, then that employer can be held liable for damages.

This woman alleges that complaints about the sexual harassment were not taken seriously, so nothing has been done to remedy this long-lasting, widespread problem. In fact, the man who was supposedly harassing her was promoted before this woman. In some cases, the woman claims her bosses joined in on the harassment.

The firm, on the other hand, claims no wrongdoing took place. According to the firm, they treat men and women equally and have an excellent reputation of promoting women to leadership roles.

Though this case has already made waves in Silicon Valley and the courtroom, it is likely to continue for some time. Hopefully, the court's decision will help advance tolerance and equality in the workplace throughout California and the tech industry.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Ellen Pao Lawsuit: Sexual Harassment Case Roils Silicon Valley," Paul Elias, July 19, 2012

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