Morin I. Jacob Quoted in a Newsweek Article on Ellen Pao Trial

Category: Press Release
Date: Mar 31, 2015 12:00 AM

LCW Partner, Morin I. Jacob was quoted in a March 31, 2015, Newsweek article - "Is the Ellen Pao Trial Silicon Valley's 'Anita Hill Moment'?" authored by Sean Elder.

One of the biggest developments in the Ellen Pao story was how it moved over the length of the trial (which ended Friday when a jury denied her sexual discrimination suit against Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) from the business pages to the front page and even the evening news.

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Morin Jacob, a partner at the San Francisco law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, which specializes in state labor and employment law, says that in the eyes of the law, the size of a firm doesn't matter. "Legally it's the same issue [as it would be for a large company]," she tells me. "The work culture is different at a smaller company, and the resources are different. But being a small business does not justify or alleviate the obligation to not discriminate in the work place."

Jacob works with employers, all of them eager to avoid a lawsuit (let alone any bad press) and for smaller startups she suggests they be proactive on discrimination issues. "I have to believe there is a tremendous amount of planning and hard work that those companies engaged in [to be successful]," she says. "As part of that planning they should absolutely build in a commitment to diversity in the workplace, a commitment that should instruct their recruitment practices, their hiring and their training. That company is going to be far less likely to face these type of lawsuits going down the road."

Not that having policies in place guarantees women will be treated fairly. As Ann Friedman noted in her New York magazine piece on the aftermath of the verdict: "When it comes to these established coping mechanisms, Ellen Pao did everything right. When one of her co-workers made unwanted sexual advances, she reported the behavior to her supervisor. She asked that her bosses bring in sexual-harassment educators and outsiders to investigate her claims." And in the end, she resorted to the courts.

Jacob is also the chair of her firm's Public Safety Practice Group. "Most of the clients I work with are police departments and fire departments," she says. "Talk about environments where there is a lack of gender diversity in the workplace!" But there has been change over time, thanks in part of past legal actions and the public's perception of what used to be regarded as closed shops. "What we have going on in California police and fire departments is a commitment to recruiting and retaining women and people of color," she says. "And it's happening. It's taken a long time to get there and there is still work to be done" but the face of those forces has changed in past decades.

Read the full article on the Newsweek's website.
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