Can Dating My Co-Worker Lead to Gender Discrimination?

In 2015, Ellen Pao lost a gender discrimination trial against the Silicon Valley venture firm where she worked as a senior partner. Recently, Pao spoke with Business Insider regarding the incidents that led to her filing a gender discrimination claim, most notably an affair she had with a co-worker.

Did a Workplace Affair Lead to Gender Discrimination?

In the article, Ellen Pao discusses how the affair with her co-worker began. During a business trip in 2006, Ellen’s co-worker told her he was having marriage problems and approached her about the possibility of the two of them dating. Pao and her co-worker did not get together on the trip. The affair began later after he told Pao that he and his wife had separated. However, Ellen broke off the affair when she found out that he had not separated from his wife.

According to Pao, after she ended the affair, her co-worker began excluding her from meetings and treating her with hostility at work. This continued even after Pao got married and had a baby. By the time she returned from maternity leave, her co-worker had been promoted to position that enabled him to review her performance at work. He used this platform to give her negative reviews. After she filed formal complaints against him with her company, their response was to suggest she transfer to the venture firm’s China office.

Eventually, another female employee made similar allegations against Pao’s co-worker. At that point, the venture firm put him on leave. He later left the company. Pao filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her venture firm following the ordeal. After filing the suit, the firm let Ellen go, claiming it was because of poor job performance. Although Ellen Pao lost her lawsuit, she continues to fight against workplace discrimination. She recently founded Project Include, a non-profit organization focused on improving diversity in the tech industry.

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