Female Yahoo! Exec Being Sued by Female Subordinate for Sexual Harassment

Maria Zhang, Senior Director of Engineering at Yahoo! Inc., sued for allegedly forcing subordinate to have sexual relations with her and retaliating when rejected

Yahoo! Senior Director of Engineering Maria Zhang

A high-level female executive at Yahoo! is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit. The suit, filed on Friday, July 11 in the Santa Clara Superior Court, alleges that Maria Zhang, Senior Director of Engineering, forced a female subordinate to have sexual relations with her, and then retaliated against her when she refused Zhang’s further advances.

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Nan Shi is bringing the suit against Zhang, as well as Yahoo! She alleges that when she reported Zhang’s inappropriate behavior and the retaliation that was impacting her career, the Human Resources department did not work to resolve the situation. Instead, they retaliated further, putting her on unpaid leave of absence and then terminating her.

The suit details that Nan Shi was hired as a Principal Software Engineer in May 2013, working directly under Zhang. She claims that Zhang “instructed Plaintiff to let Zhang stay in her temporary Yahoo housing unit.” The legal document alleges that Zhang then coerced the plaintiff into having “oral and digital sex with her on multiple occasions against her will.”

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According to the lawsuit, Shi was told that if she complied with Zhang’s wishes “she would have a bright future at Yahoo,” but if she did not, “[Zhang] could take away everything from her including her job, stocks, and future.” Shi also claims Zhang forced her to work long and grueling hours, including from their shared home on weekends.

Shi alleges that when she rejected Zhang’s further advances for sex, her supervisor began to retaliate against her, “unfairly downgrading her performance reviews for the second and third quarters of 2013.” Shi was then removed as lead from projects and had others promoted from beneath her to supervise her, according to the suit.

The plaintiff, represented by Matthew H. Fisher of Da Vega Fisher Mechtenberg LLP, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.