A high-level female Yahoo executive helping to lead the company's mobile-content efforts was named Friday in a state lawsuit filed by a woman working under her who accused the supervisor of sexually harassing her.

In her complaint, Nan Shi says she was working as a principal software engineer when the supervisor, industry veteran Maria Zhang, forced her to have sex against her will on multiple occasions, promising her "a bright future at Yahoo'' if she acquiesced. After coercing her to have "oral and digital sex,'' Shi says when she finally resisted Zhang's advances, the executive retaliated by giving her a bad performance review and removing her as a project lead. When she reported the abuse to Yahoo, Shi says, the company did nothing to stop it, and then put her on what eventually became an unpaid leave followed by final termination that took effect Friday.

The lawsuit names Yahoo as a defendant and lists three causes for damages: sexual-harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination.

According to Shi and her Sunnyvale attorney, Matthew Fisher, Shi had been working for Zhang's mobile-app startup in Seattle and when Yahoo purchased it in 2013, both women came down to work for Yahoo. Shi says Zhang told her to move into a temporary Yahoo housing unit in Sunnyvale.

"While staying with Plaintiff, Zhang coerced Plaintiff to have oral and digital sex with her on multiple occasions against her will, even after Plaintiff told her she did not want to have sex,'' the complaint alleges. "Zhang told Plaintiff she would have a bright future at Yahoo if she had sex with her. She also stated she could take away everything from her including her job, stocks, and future if she did not do what she wanted.''


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The complaint alleges that Zhang, as Shi's manager, forced her "to work grueling hours and compose work emails over the weekend at the apartment, sometimes right after sex.''

Zhang did not respond to a request for comment. But a Yahoo spokesperson 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."

According to her LinkedIn profile, "Zhang is a Senior Director of Engineering at Yahoo, where she currently leads the mobile content and mobile SDK team for Yahoo's Mobile and Emerging Products organization. Maria leads the direction and execution of Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Fantasy Sports, Yahoo News Digest and the Yahoo app.''

In an emotional interview Friday, Shi broke down as she described being forced to have sex with Zhang. "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,'' Shi said. "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.''

Shi, who was born in China, said she did not report the assaults to police or to Yahoo because she was worried that publicly going after Zhang could mean the end of her career. But after finally stopping Zhang's advances, she says the supervisor began to "retaliate'' by giving her poor performance evaluations. Finally, this past spring, Shi reported the sexual assaults to Yahoo's human-resources department.

In 2012, GeekWire named Zhang "Geek of the Week'' for her work on the app she developed. In the Q&A, Zhang said she loves cooking and a "good peach martini."

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc