Female Yahoo exec sued for sexual harassment by former employee
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) – A female tech executive at Yahoo is being sued for sexual harassment by a former female software engineer at the company.
The software engineer, Nan Shi, filed a complaint Friday, alleging sexual harassment, emotional distress and wrongful termination.
The executive is Maria Zhang, a senior director of engineering. Her previous company, Propeld, was acquired by Yahoo in 2013. She also held positions at Microsoft and Zillow in the past.
The complaint says that Shi had worked at Yahoo since February 2013, and that Zhang was her direct supervisor.
According to lawyers representing Shi, the two women had worked together at Propeld.
The complaint says that Zhang “coerced” Shi to have “oral and digital sex” with her on multiple occasions against her will.
The incidents took place at Shi’s temporary Yahoo housing unit in Sunnyvale, Calif., the complaint says.
Zhang promised a “bright future” at Yahoo, the complaint says, and also threatened that she could “take everything away from her.”
Shi’s lawyers told CNNMoney that the women never had an intimate relationship prior to the harassment.
The complaint says that once Shi rejected Zhang’s advances, she received poor performance reviews and less important assignments.
The complaint also says that she reported the harassment to Yahoo’s human resources, and that the company did not perform a proper investigation and ultimately fired her.
In a statement to CNNMoney, a Yahoo spokesperson said “there is absolutely no basis or truth” to the allegations against the executive. “Maria is an exemplary Yahoo executive and we intend to fight vigorously to clear her name,” the spokesperson said.
The suit is the latest string of sexual harassment cases in Silicon Valley, including one most recently against the co-founder of Tinder.
“You’ll see more sexual harassment cases in Silicon Valley because of the male dominated culture,” said Mathew De Vega, a lawyer representing Shi. He acknowledged this particular case is different because it involves two women.
De Vega said these cases will keep popping up where there’s money and power. But according to the attorney, Silicon Valley companies are “hyper sensitive,” operating in a system of money and perception.
“Instead of dealing with the issue like they should have,” he said, “their immediate response is to deny, deny.”