Yahoo exec Maria Zhang allegedly coerced her female employee Nan Shi to have “oral and digital sex” with her. Shi is suing over alleged sexual misconduct, but Zhang is striking back with a countersuit. Here’s what you need to know about this shocking story from Silicon Valley.
1. Maria Zhang Allegedly Harassed Nan Shi
The video above dramatizes the alleged relationship between Nan Shi and Maria Zhang.
Maria Zhang is a senior director of engineering at Yahoo. Her employee, Nan Shi, alleges that Zhang engaged in a number of inappropriate behaviors. Nan Shi’s suit against Maria Zhang also names Yahoo as a defendant. The complaint includes allegations of sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Valley Wag notes that Zhang and Nan Shi had a long history of working together, even pre-dating their time together at Yahoo:
“Zhang’s previous company, Propeld, was acquired by Yahoo last February. Shi worked under Zhang at Propeld [aka Alike], 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.”
The Daily Mail adds that Nan Shi was allegedly fired after airing her grievances to Yahoo’s HR department.
2. Zhang Is Suing for Defamation
— [ Yahoo News ] (@getinsideyahoo) July 11, 2014
Valley Wag notes that Maria Zhang has filed a suit of her own. Zhang argues that Nan Shi’s lawsuit is a form of defamation, and also claims that Shi was trying to “extort” Yahoo. Zhang argues that Nan Shi actually had negative performance reviews from other Yahoo staffers, and Shi’s overall productivity was low.
The “cross-complaint” from Zhang can be viewed below:
According to the Daily Mail, Yahoo supports Maria Zhang. A Yahoo spokesperson was quoted as saying:
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.
However, Nan Shi would beg to differ. The Mail quotes Shi’s account of one incident of Zhang’s misconduct when the two shared a living space:
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. I said, ‘Come on, we’re friends; I love you as a person, but not as a lover.’
3. Maria Zhang Allegedly ‘Downgraded’ Nan Shi’s Performance Reports
Maria Zhang shares her thoughts on the technology industry and Seattle’s start-up community in the video above.
The New York Post reports that Nan Shi believes Zhang “unfairly” downgraded her performance reports:
In the complaint, Shi accuses Zhang of unfairly downgrading her performance reviews for the second and third quarters of 2013.
The lawsuit alleges that the company’s human resources personnel refused to conduct an investigation when Shi complained about her direct supervisor’s advances.
The complaint adds that Shi was put on unpaid leave after making her internal complaint to HR. After being on unpaid leave, Shi was then fired.
4. Nan Shi Is a Software Engineer
The video above features Maria Zhang speaking before a tech meetup in 2012.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Nan Shi’s expertise as a software engineer was utilized by a number of prominent tech companies. AOL and Microsoft are both featured on her resume, with Shi earning two “Gold Star” awards from Microsoft during her time here. Her profile also states that she attended Ohio University.
5. Zhang’s Suit Is Part of a Disturbing Tech Trend
There are several other examples of tech execs who have recently been dressed down for their alleged sexual misconduct. Perhaps most notably is the case surrounding “G” Chahal, which you can learn more about in the video above.
As we reported previously, former RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh ‘G’ Chahal recently pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges at a trial related to domestic abuse.
VentureBeat notes several other tech execs who reportedly engaged in sexual misconduct prior to the Zhang affair going public:
The lawsuit is the latest in a string of such cases in the tech community over the past few months, although it is the first we know of to involve a female executive. Tinder chief executive Sean Rad was hit with a sexual harassment and sex discrimination lawsuit by a former VP of marketing at the company. GitHub CEO Tom Preston-Werner stepped down after claims that he sexually harassed an employee. Urban Airship’s Scott Kveton took an ‘extended leave of absence’ after allegations arose that he raped an ex-girlfriend.