Maria Zhang

Former Seattle startup CEO Maria Zhang, who joined Yahoo as a senior mobile engineering director when it acquired her company, Alike, was sued for sexual harassment Friday by a female employee who worked for Zhang at Yahoo.

Yahoo is denying the allegations and saying it intends to “fight vigorously” to clear Zhang’s name.

Zhang was a GeekWire Geek of the Week in October 2012.

The lawsuit, filed by Nan Shi, was reported today by the Mercury News. The suit alleges that Zhang coerced Shi into having sex and later retaliated by giving Shi a poor performance review and removing her as a project lead after Shi ultimately resisted Zhang’s advances. Shi says she was put on unpaid leave and ultimately terminated after reporting the allegations of abuse to Yahoo.

Yahoo, which is named as a defendant in the suit, told the Mercury News in a statement, “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.”

GeekWire has also contacted Zhang seeking comment.

Update, July 17: Zhang has countersued for defamation in this sexual harassment case. Read more here.

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  • kjame

    It is about time. This kind of harrasment had to be made visible as there are gay/lesbians who are violating rules by promoting their own significant others, people they are in bed with. Case in point is MSN’s advertising head who had her partner heading a parellel online division 2 years back. There are lot of instances in Microsoft where gays are promoting and hiring their own. Really glad that this kind of behavior is now in the open and is being questioned. It takes courage and kudos to her for coming forward with this.

    • immaletyoufinishbut

      Without going as far as calling you a bigot, what does this have to do with being gay or straight? Have you considered flipping your statement with “There are lot of instances in Microsoft where [straights] are promoting and hiring their own.” Total non sequitur. This kind of situation happens across any orientation.

      • franxalot


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  • Stanley Hubris

    Battle of the lewd lesbos. This should be good.

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    I stopped reading when my fantasies starting intruding.

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      Make that, “started intruding” as you can see, it’s hot.

  • Michele Mehl

    There’s just know way that this is true. I met with Maria during the early days of her startup and I have a VERY hard time believing this and will give her the benefit of the doubt.

    • Marias Friend

      i met her and we had good time before, she seems to be flexible in both sexes

  • SeattleTechPro

    Nan’s claim is absolutely no basis and a completely retaliation. I met both of them of before and familiar with Maria for over 20 years. Maria is a respective manager and mother. Through years I have known Maria, she is straight. The claim of her being a lesbian has no basis and and her sexually harassing Nan is no basis. This is a retaliation from a crazy woman who wants money. Our media just wants some ridiculous story to sell more story, regardless it is true or not.

    • Matthew Reynolds

      I know Nan Shi, and I used to work with her at microsoft, and to accuse her of a baseless lie is beyond plausibility. She is a dedicated, hardworking software developer. Considering the array of lawyers that she is about to face from Yahoo, it strains credulity that she would bring a case without merit.

      • Anno

        I tend to believe you. Cases are analyze by lawyers before they take it esp. if you are going against a big company. If she does not have a strong case, she will not go against yahoo because she can be in line to pay their legal fees if she lose.

        Also, why is manager and subordinate living together.

    • Anno

      There are a lot of bad people that put up a good front. I would remain bias toward Nan Shi on this case simply on the ground of why are manager and subordinate living together in corporate housing. Why did yahoo allow that arrangement.

  • Bing

    Salacious complaint aside, Yahoo! rapid response and complete denial would generally indicate two things. Yahoo! investigated these matters and found nothing, and plaintiff’s demands were very, very high. Particularly for a claim involving a mid-level manager–Senior Director–it is almost always easier to settle. Unusual to let a discrimination claim that will get a lot of press go to litigation unless the demands were completely off the charts.

    • Bing

      It also likely means the plaintiff feels pretty strongly. This is a very high profile complaint that will pop up every time a future employer or anyone Google’s her.

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