Female Yahoo Exec Accused of Sexual Harassment Files for Defamation

Maria Zhang, the Yahoo engineering executive sued for sexual harassment by one of her female employees, is striking back. Zhang, who helps lead Yahoo's crucial mobile efforts, filed a cross-complaint (embedded below) against her accuser, Nan Shi. It alleges defamation and claims Shi was trying to "extort" Yahoo.

Although Yahoo was named as a defendant in Shi's sexual harassment suit, the cross-complaint was only filed by Zhang, not Yahoo (the party allegedly being extorted).

Making such false and outrageous allegations is so unimaginable it raises the question of why anyone would resort to such extreme measure. In Shi's case, the answer is simple: financial gain. Shi made false claims that Renhui ("Maria") Zhang ("Zhang" or "Defendant") coerced her into having sex so that Shi could extort Yahoo! Inc. ("Yahoo") for money. Zhang submits this Cross-Complaint for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("Cross-Complaint") to redress the harm caused by Shi's attempt to ruin Zhang's professional and personal life for Shi's own financial gain.

In the sexual harassment suit, Shi claims that Zhang instructed her to move into temporary housing in Sunnyvale, which is where the alleged harassment began. (Shi worked at Alike, Zhang's previous Seattle-based startup. When Alike was acquired, they both joined Yahoo in California.) Zhang's complaint does not mention the housing arrangement at all. Rather, the filing says Shi retaliated out of concern that she would be fired for performance.

By March 2014, it became obvious to Shi that her job was in serious jeopardy. She had already received negative performance feedback from one technical lead, [Ben Xing], in the third quarter of 2013 and her new technical lead, [Qichu Lu], had raised serious concerns with her performance in the first quarter of 2014.

Realizing that consistent negative performance feedback would likely lead to the termination of her employment and the loss of unvested stock worth potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars, Shi attempted to save her job by making complaints to Yahoo's Human Resources department.

Shi's first attempt was carefully investigated but Yahoo found her claims to be unsubstantiated. In March 2014, Shi approached Yahoo's Human Resources department. She complained that she did not like being told what to do by Lu. She also complained that Zhang was a demanding manager. She also stated that Zhang threatened her job.

The cross-complaint highlights the fact that Shi did not mention sexual harassment allegations until the following month when: "Shi realized that she would not receive another chance and her termination of employment was likely to be imminent." (Shi has said she did not mention the harassment earlier because she feared it would end her career.)

To support the fact that Zhang and Shi never had a sexual relationship, the cross-complaint mentions the lack of witnesses or physical evidence, including no references to it in email, text message, or letter during the time span of the alleged harassment.

The Yahoo spokesperson who sent Valleywag the complaint would only offer the following comment:

As we previously stated, 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.

Yahoo executive Maria Zhang cross-complaint v Nan Shi

To contact the author of this post with information about this lawsuit, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via Berita Teknologi]