Maria Zhang, Yahoo's Senior Director of Engineering and startup success story, has been hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit. Nan Shi, a principal software engineer at Yahoo who reported to Zhang, claims Zhang forced her into sexual encounters, promising her a "a bright future at Yahoo" if she complied.
Shi had been working for Zhang's mobile-app startup in Seattle when, in 2013, Yahoo purchased the start up, and both women relocated to temporary Yahoo housing in Sunnyvale, California. At this residence, Shi (the Plaintiff) alleges, "Zhang coerced Plaintiff to have oral and digital sex with her on multiple occasions against her will, even after Plaintiff told her she did not want to have sex." In the event Shi rejected Zhang, Zhang said "she could take away everything from her including her job, stocks, and future.''
For some time, Shi complied with Zhang's advances. When she began resisting, Zhang filed a poor performance review of Shi and removed her as the project lead in the department. Shi then reported the situation to Yahoo, and in the court filing, says the company did nothing to stop it. They put her on an unpaid leave, then terminated her in full this past Friday.
Outside of the sexual harassment, Shi also claims Zhang forced her to work "grueling hours and compose work emails over the weekend at the apartment, sometimes right after sex.'' She offered an example of the harassment to San Jose Mercury News:
I was in a deep sleep one morning, sleeping on the sofa because she had taken my bed, when she came in without clothes on, crawled into my blanket, and woke me up, hugging me, kissing my face and neck. I woke up and got scared; I was shocked. I said, what are you doing? She said she'd liked me a long time, but I didn't' feel the same toward her. I said come on, we're friends; I love you as a person, but not as a lover.''
Shi is originally from China, and it seems was not familiar with the full legal process for reporting abuse. She said she initially "did not report the assaults to police or to Yahoo because she was worried that publicly going after Zhang could mean the end of her career."
Beyond Zhang, Shi's lawsuit also names Yahoo as a defendant as it claims they were aware of the abuse. The causes for damages include sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination.
Yahoo issued this statement, "There is absolutely no basis or truth to the allegations against Maria Zhang. Maria is an exemplary Yahoo executive, and we intend to fight vigorously to clear her name."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.