Yahoo exec countersues against sexual harassment claim

A high-level female executive strikes back for defamation, after being accused of sexual harassment in a lurid lawsuit last week.

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Richard Nieva/CNET

A Yahoo engineering executive who was sued last week for sexual harassment on Wednesday filed a countersuit for defamation.

Maria Zhang, a senior director of engineering, was accused by her subordinate, a principal software engineer named Nan Shi, of forcing Shi to have sex with her. When Shi resisted her advances, Zhang gave her a negative performance review, and Shi was eventually terminated, according to Shi's original suit.

Zhang's countersuit calls Shi's accusations "simply inhumane." "Making such extreme false accusations with the sole intention of causing undue harm is simply inhumane," the countersuit reads. "They destroy the lives of the people who are wrongfully accused."

A Yahoo spokesperson declined to further comment, outside of the countersuit.

Zhang plays a key role in Yahoo's mobile efforts -- an important piece in Yahoo's strategy to turn around the lumbering Internet portal. Zhang heads content and developer-tool teams for several of the company's mobile properties, including Yahoo Sports and News Digest.

The countersuit claims that Shi filed her complaint to save her job and reap financial gain. According to the suit, while Shi reports to Zhang "on the dotted line," she actually reported to a different technical lead. After receiving poor feedback from two different managers, Shi feared she would be fired and lose "potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars" in unvested stock, according to the suit.

Matthew Fisher, Shi's attorney, declined to comment.

The suit also said Yahoo has investigated Shi's claims and found no trace of evidence or communication -- emails, texts, pictures -- that indicates the two had a sexual relationship. In addition to defamation, the suit also claims Shi intentionally inflicted emotional distress.

 

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