London - A leading woman executive at Yahoo threatened a female colleague with the sack if she did not have sex with her, it has been claimed.
Maria Zhang has been accused of sexual harassment and wrongfully terminating her colleague’s employment.
Miss Zhang, a senior director of engineering at Yahoo Mobile in America, is alleged to have coerced Nan Shi, a principal software engineer, to have sex on numerous occasions in a flat owned by the company near its headquarters.
In legal papers filed in California, it is claimed the Yahoo executive forced her subordinate to work gruelling hours and write work emails in her own time, “sometimes right after sex”.
Miss Zhang told Miss Shi she would have a “bright future” at Yahoo if she complied, it is claimed, but would lose her “job, her stocks [shares in Yahoo] and her future” if she rejected her advances.
Miss Shi alleges that after she complained to human resources she was fired.
Yahoo strongly denies the claims made against Miss Zhang.
In her complaint, Miss Shi says she met her boss when she went to work for a mobile company Miss Zhang set up in Seattle.
When Yahoo bought the company last year, both women moved to California and ended up sharing an apartment.
In a newspaper interview, Miss Shi described how Miss Zhang allegedly surprised her one morning as she slept on the couch in their apartment.
She said: “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’.”
In the complaint, she accuses Miss Zhang of unfairly downgrading her performance reviews for the second and third quarters of 2013.
According to court documents, Yahoo’s human resources personnel refused to conduct an investigation when Miss Shi complained about the advances.
Instead Miss Shi was put on unpaid leave and eventually fired. Miss Shi, a native of Beijing who graduated from Ohio University with a degree in computer science, is seeking financial as well as punitive damages.
The lawsuit also names Yahoo as a defendant.
Yahoo officials defended Miss Zhang. A spokesman said: “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.”
In April, Silicon Valley Business Journal named Miss Zhang as one of its Women of Influence of 2014.
Her profile stated that “she is passionate about supporting women” and “she actively mentors other women engineers”.
Miss Zhang told the magazine that she was fortunate that she has many opportunities “to influence other women’s careers”.
When asked to name something about her that would surprise others, she replied that she has a growing collection of Hello Kitty paraphernalia.
Miss Shi’s claims are the latest scandal to hit Silicon Valley.
An escort, Alix Tichelman, is accused of killing Google executive Forrest Hayes with an overdose of heroin on his yacht.
And the mobile phone dating app Tinder has denied allegations that a female marketing executive was repeatedly called a “whore” by a senior executive. - Daily Mail