Maria Zhang, a top executive at Yahoo, is being sued for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint was filed today by Nan Shi, an engineer supervised by Zhang, and names Yahoo as a defendant.
In her complaint, Nan Shi says she was working as a principal software engineer when the supervisor, industry veteran Maria Zhang, forced her to have sex against her will on multiple occasions, promising her "a bright future at Yahoo'' if she acquiesced. After coercing her to have "oral and digital sex,'' Shi says when she finally resisted Zhang's advances, the executive retaliated by giving her a bad performance review and removing her as a project lead. When she reported the abuse to Yahoo, Shi says, the company did nothing to stop it, and then put her on what eventually became an unpaid leave followed by final termination that took effect Friday.
Zhang's previous company, Propeld, was acquired by Yahoo last February. Shi worked under Zhang at Propeld, which was based in Seattle. After the acquisition, both women joined Yahoo. Shi claims that Zhang instructed her to move into a temporary Yahoo housing in Sunnyvale, which is when the alleged harassment began.
"While staying with Plaintiff, 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,'' the complaint alleges. "Zhang told Plaintiff she would have a bright future at Yahoo if she had sex with her. She also stated she could take away everything from her including her job, stocks, and future if she did not do what she wanted.''
The complaint alleges that Zhang, as Shi's manager, forced her "to work grueling hours and compose work emails over the weekend at the apartment, sometimes right after sex.''
"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."
Shi was born in China and claims she did not report the alleged assaults to the police or to Yahoo because she feared a public dispute would end her career. This past Spring was the first time Shi reported the abuse to Yahoo's human resources department. The Mercury News says that Shi was emotional during an interview today and "broke down" describing the alleged harassment.
"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,'' Shi said. "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.''
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