Yahoo Exec Faces Sexual Harassment Charges From Former Employee
Here's the latest sexual harassment scandal out of Silicon Valley: A former Yahoo employee filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against a female Yahoo executive on Friday, claiming she was forced into sex as a way to help her career at the tech company. The former employee, principal software engineer Nan Shi, alleges in the complaint that mobile exec Maria Zhang gave her a poor performance review when she ended their sexual relations.
According to The San Jose Mercury News, Yahoo has been named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in Santa Clara Superior Court in San Jose, California. In addition to sexual harassment, the lawsuit names intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination as damages.
The complaint alleges:
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. ... 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 adds that Zhang allegedly forced Shi to work "grueling hours" and made her "compose work emails over the weekend ... sometimes right after sex." When Shi notified Yahoo of the harassment that took place this spring, she was reportedly put on unpaid leave. Her position at the company was later terminated.
Prior to joining Yahoo in 2013, Zhang was the CEO of startup Alike, which Yahoo acquired last year. Zhang and Shi lived together in an apartment provided by Yahoo. According to Shi, much of the sexual harassment occurred there. She told The Mercury News in an interview:
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.
According to Reuters, Yahoo is denying Shi's sexual harassment claims and is sticking by Zhang. "There is absolutely no basis or truth to the allegations against Maria Zhang," a Yahoo spokesperson told Reuters via email. "Maria is an exemplary Yahoo executive and we intend to fight vigorously to clear her name."
This is just the latest sexual harassment allegation to hit Silicon Valley. Tinder, the dating app company, recently faced sexual harassment and sex discrimination charges from former VP and cofounder, Whitney Wolfe. In her lawsuit, Wolfe alleged that members of the company called her a "whore" and routinely subjected her to degrading and offensive emails full of misogynist and racist slurs. The Tinder lawsuit, which describes the company's "frat-like" culture in detail, can be read here.