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Ellen Pao's gender discrimination lawsuit heads to trial

The former junior partner's high-profile lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is going to trial, nearly three years after it was filed.

Ellen Pao claims she was subjected to years of gender discrimation and retaliation at one of Silicon Valley's oldest and largest venture capital firms. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

A high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit filed nearly three years ago against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers by a former partner appears to finally be heading to a courtroom.

Jury selection in the lawsuit filed by Ellen Pao in 2012 is scheduled to begin Monday, with attorneys' opening statements coming as early as the next day, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pao alleges she was subjected to gender discrimination and retaliation for about six years after complaining about the conduct of a male colleague who she said pressured her into a brief affair in 2006.

In addition to the involvement of one of Silicon Valley's oldest and largest venture capital firms, the lawsuit has also underscored issues such as sexism and gender inequality in the tech industry. Many tech firms have recently begun releasing workforce diversity data and made promises to improve gender and racial balance in their workforces.

The lawsuit alleges that Pao endured five years of retaliation for rebuffing sexual advances from senior partners and that the company discriminated against her and other female employees when it came to promotions and pay. Pao, who is now the interim CEO of community-curated news site Reddit, is seeking $16 million in back pay and for future wage losses suffered due to the alleged discrimination.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has said the charges are without merit and claimed in court documents that Pao "has twisted facts and events in an attempt to create legal claims where none exist."

Pao left the firm in 2012, but the circumstances of her departure are in dispute. In October 2012, Pao wrote that she had been "terminated" and ordered "to clean out my office, leave, and not come back." Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which lost a bid for arbitration in 2013, called the separation a performance issue and produced annual performance reviews that described her as "territorial," "passive" and not a "good team player."

The trial is expected to take four weeks but could be avoided if the parties opt to settle.

Founded in 1972, Kleiner Perkins is one of the most prominent venture capital firms in the Valley. It's famous for big hits such as Google, Amazon, Genentech and Netscape.