Follow-up, Feb. 24, 2016: Yahoo exec and Seattle startup founder Maria Zhang on her vindication against sexual harassment suit
One week after being sued for sexual harassment by a female employee, Yahoo executive and former Seattle startup CEO Maria Zhang has filed a counter-claim against the plaintiff.
Zhang, who joined Yahoo as a senior mobile engineering director when it acquired her company, Alike, claims that allegations made by her former colleague Nan Shi are not true.
“Making such false and outrageous allegations is so unimaginable it raises the question of why anyone would resort to such extreme measure,” the suit reads. “In Shi’s case, the answer is simple: financial gain.”
Shi alleged that Zhang coerced her 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 said she was put on unpaid leave and ultimately terminated after reporting the allegations of abuse to Yahoo.
But in the counter-suit, Zhang claims that she never had a sexual relationship with Shi — neither forced nor consensual. The suit notes how Shi approached Yahoo’s HR department in March 2014 and claimed that Zhang “threatened her job” — however, there was no mention of sexual harassment at the time.
The harassment accusations came one month later, according to the counter-suit, when Shi “took drastic measures to ward off her termination.” However, when Yahoo investigated the issue, the suit notes how Shi “did not have any piece of testimonial or physical evidence to corroborate her allegations.”
“After careful investigation, Yahoo concluded that there was no support for Shi’s assertion that there was ever any sexual relationship between her and Zhang — much less that there was a non-consensual sexual relationship,” the suit reads. “After giving Shi every opportunity to substantiate her outrageous allegations, and after receiving no substantiation in return, Yahoo closed its investigation.”
Zhang, a GeekWire Geek of the Week in October 2012, is countersuing for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Last week, Yahoo denied Shi’s original allegations and said it intended to “fight vigorously” to clear Zhang’s name.
Here’s the new suit in full: