Trials & Litigation

2nd Venture Capital Firm Faces Suit re Claimed Discrimination Against Female Partner

For the second time in less than six months, a venture capital firm in the San Francisco area has been sued for alleged discrimination against a female partner.

Such litigation by high-profile women working in the male-dominated field is unusual, and the previous suit, by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao, made headlines throughout the country. Now former principal Carol Foster of Pantheon Ventures, has filed suit in state superior court alleging not only age and gender discrimination but defamation, Reuters reports. It seeks compensatory, special and punitive damages.

Both Foster and Pao have impressive credentials and resumes, including, for Foster, a master’s degree in business administration from Columbia University and previous work for Merrill Lynch & Co. A LinkedIn profile provides further details about Foster’s background. Both also filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court.

Foster’s suit says she was hired in September 2008 and put in charge of North American Client Service, but was paid less than men in comparable jobs and had promised compensation withheld. By 2009, the suit contends, Pantheon began chipping away at her responsibilities and gave her East Coast clients to a new colleague, making it difficult for her to meet goals.

At the end of 2011, she was terminated for claimed substandard performance, although she had met expectations the previous year. The suit says her direct manager referred in an email to a dinner party Foster had held for high-profile clients and prospective clients in venture capital as a “hen party.”

The defamation allegations relate to claimed comments to Foster’s ex-colleagues by her direct manager, after her termination, that she had been fired for cause, as well as a comment he allegedly made to a former client of hers that she couldn’t “close on money with new clients.”

Pantheon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Related coverage: “Still in ‘Caveman Era’? Ex-BigLaw Associate with Star Credentials Sues Venture Capital Firm” “Judge Denies Venture Capital Firm’s Arbitration Bid in Lawyer’s Discrimination Case”

Reuters: “Kleiner Perkins appeals decision for trial in sexual harassment case”

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