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Female Yahoo Executive Sued By An Employee For Sexual Harassment

The woman alleges her supervisor, Maria Zhang, forced her to have “oral and digital” sex and threatened she would “take away everything from her” if she resisted.

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Yahoo executive Maria Zhang (left) and plaintiff Nan Shi.

High-ranking Yahoo executive Maria Zhang has been named in a lawsuit from an employee accusing the supervisor of sexually harassing her, the San Jose Mercury-News reports.

Principal software engineer Nan Shi says that industry veteran Maria Zhang, who leads Yahoo’s mobile content development team, forced her to have “oral and digital” sex with her against her will.

“Zhang told Plaintiff she would have a bright future at Yahoo if she had sex with her,” the suit alleges. “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 lawsuit, filed Friday, names Yahoo as a defendant and charges Zhang with sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.

The two women both came to Yahoo after the software giant bought Zhang’s Seattle-based mobile software start-up where Shi also worked, her attorney told the Mercury News.

Shi said under orders from Zhang, she moved into the Yahoo temporary housing, and her supervisor soon moved in with her. The alleged harassment then took place, she said.

Shi, who was born in China, broke down in an “emotional interview” with a reporter on Friday where she described the alleged assault.

“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.”

The former employee said she avoided reporting the assault to authorities or to Yahoo out of fear for jeopardizing her career. But when she resisted Zhang’s advances, she claims her boss began to “retaliate” through poor performance evaluations and removing her as project lead.

When she reported the harassment to Yahoo last Spring, Shi says they did nothing to stop it, and put her on what became an unpaid leave, followed by a termination last week.

A Yahoo spokesperson denied the allegations to the Mercury News.

“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.”

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Rachel Zarrell is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Rachel Zarrell at rachel.zarrell@buzzfeed.com.
 
 

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