Gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits have been fairly rare in the venture capital realm, which has been populated predominantly by males for quite some time. Recently, however, several sexual harassment lawsuits have been filed against venture capital firms. The most recent was brought in a California court against CMEA by three executive assistants. All three allege that one of its partners made inappropriate sexual comments toward the women. It further claims that other partners were often present when this occurred, and yet did nothing to address the harassment.

CMEA focuses its venture capital efforts mainly on life sciences and internet technology, along with energy and materials. The firm has been in existence since 1989, and the lawsuit alleges that the harassment began in 2009 when two of the women joined the firm. Harassment against the third plaintiff apparently began when she started with the company in 2011.

The women filed a formal complaint concerning the purported sexual harassment in April 2012. The third-party human resources company serving CMEA conducted an investigation into the women’s allegations. Subsequently, CMEA arranged to buy-out the accused harasser’s shares in the venture firm. Meanwhile, the plaintiffs maintain that their overtime opportunities at the company have vastly gone down while their actual workloads have been heightened.

California workers have the right to enjoy a work environment that is free of any sort of sexual harassment. Companies who fail to provide this type of workplace or who engage in retaliation for good-faith reports of perceived harassment may find themselves facing civil lawsuits. Whatever side of the story an individual falls upon, one of the best courses of action to take is to ensure that all rights and responsibilities under the law are understood. This can help both individuals and businesses form a plan of action on how to deal with such allegations; and, when it comes to that, lawsuits filed in court.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, “Venture firm CMEA sued for sexual harassment, retaliation,” Sarah McBride, March 9, 2013