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Yahoo Exec Fires Back and Counter Sues Former Employee

July 18, 2014 Legal Team

If you’ve ever wondered why employers and their lawyers mistrust employees who report supervisor misconduct, look no further than this case of an apparently desperate and deceptive employee:

According to a suit recently filed by a Yahoo executive, a Yahoo software engineer under her supervision allegedly had performance problems and received negative performance reviews from multiple managers.  After receiving the reviews, the software engineer worried she would lose her job and went to human resources and complained about several of the managers.  The company looked into it and determined there was nothing to the claims.

Realizing she was about to be fired, the software engineer went back to Yahoo’s Human Resources department with all new claims that her boss, the Director of Engineering, had coerced her into having “oral and digital sex” and that the boss – also a woman – threatened to fire her if she refused.  The software engineer, however, gave human resources no evidence, witnesses, or any other support for her outlandish accusations and after a lengthy investigation including reviewing the emails between the two, Yahoo determined that there was nothing at all that supported the employee’s claims and closed the investigation.  After completing the investigation, Yahoo terminated the employee as planned, but not before the underperforming employee received hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and stock options that she would not have been eligible for if she had been fired before her allegedly false complaint. We previously blogged about the employee’s suit here.

After her termination, the employee sued not only Yahoo but also her former boss, alleging the same sexual harassment allegations and that she was fired because she complained about the harassment.

The executive and Yahoo are fighting the employee’s suit and in a rare turn of events, the former boss has actually filed a counter-suit for defamation for the “outrageously false” claims the employee made up to try to save her job.  In order to win her defamation suit, the former boss will essentially have to prove that what the software engineer said was actually false, so filing the suit shows that the executive is very confident that she can show the employee made everything up.

In all, the proceedings indicate that Yahoo and the former boss believe very strongly that the employee did nothing less than lie so she could get more money out of Yahoo before she was (properly) fired.

Unfortunately, the occasional dishonest employee makes it that much harder for honest, hardworking employees to be believed when they report unlawful conduct.  Making sure you hold on to evidence of a supervisor’s unlawful conduct, including any texts, emails, or notes you make at the time, can go a long way towards showing you are a real, honest victim of unlawful conduct and not a greedy employee trying to game the system.

Image Source: The Daily Telegraph (left Yahoo Executive Maria Zhang, right the former employee Nan Shi)