Zillow accused of “heinous acts of sexual harassment”

Former employee: Pervasive culture of degrading women

A former employee of Zillow (Z) filed suit against the online real estate giant, alleging that she was subjected to “the most heinous acts of sexual harassment imaginable” during her time at the company. Zillow vigorously denies the claims that alleged inappropriate behavior of any kind is practiced, much less allowed, at any of its locations.

Rachel Kremer, who began working at Zillow as an inside sales consultant on June 25, 2012, claims that during her more than two years with the company, “her male supervisors ranked her according to her breast size, sent pictures of their penis [sic] to her, and demanded sexual gratification and obedience by Ms. Kremer to continue her employment.”

According to Kremer’s lawsuit, filed Monday in United States District Court for the Central District of California and first reported by The Recorder and Gawker, Kremer said that she was propositioned by her supervisors in various lewd forms, on many occasions, including a series of vulgar text messages. According to the lawsuit, in early June, one of Kremer’s supervisors sent her an unsolicited picture of his genitalia.

“Zillow management routinely and unapologetically subjected Ms. Kremer to despicable and inappropriate sexual conduct throughout Ms. Kremer’s employment,” Kremer’s lawsuit states.

“Zillow management also directly targeted and propositioned Ms. Kremer on numerous occasions. These managers later retaliated against Ms. Kremer because she would not engage in sexual acts.”

In a statement to HousingWire, Zillow said it takes any allegations about its work environment very seriously. “When this allegation was first made, we immediately investigated these claims and as a result took quick action and terminated a sales employee in our Irvine office,” Zillow said.

“The allegations in the complaint do not reflect Zillow’s culture or workplace and are completely inconsistent with our values. We don’t tolerate harassment of any kind.”

Kremer’s lawsuit states that Zillow’s Southern California office is an “adult frat house where sexual harassment and misconduct are normalized, condoned, and promoted by male managers,” and these types of communications from male supervisors are commonplace.

“Ms. Kremer’s experience was not limited to one supervisor, but instead, was pervasive throughout Zillow’s leadership,” Kremer’s lawsuit states. “Privately, Zillow executives bragged that the office culture led to more sexual encounters than and referred to the internal office directory as ‘Zinder,’ named after the dating application Tinder. Sadly, for Ms. Kremer, by not participating in this culture, she felt she would be outcast, and terminated.”

Kremer said that the hostile work environment eventually affected her work performance and in July and August 2014, she was unable to meet her stated sales goals.

Kremer claims that she was fired on Aug. 29, without cause or warning and alleges that Zillow attempted to cover up the rampant harassment by having her sign a confidentiality agreement and release.

When she was terminated, Kremer said that she was told that her termination was due to her missing two months of sales goals, despite never being given a warning or being given the opportunity to explain the decline in her performance, which Kremer’s lawsuit states is “completely inconsistent” with Zillow’s standard practices.

“In fact, another Zillow employee from Ms. Kremer’s hire class was not terminated even though the employee’s job performance was nearly identical to Ms. Kremer’s,” her lawsuit states.

Kremer claims that she suffered emotional distress and past and future special damages and past and future general damages.

“Zillow’s agents, employees, and representatives made sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, demands for sexual compliance by plaintiff, and engaged in other verbal, visual, and physical conduct of a sexual and hostile nature based on gender that were unwelcome by plaintiff and pervasive or severe,” Kremer’s lawsuit states.

“Ms. Kremer brings this action based on the sexual torture she endured, and for the other women who have been silenced at Zillow, and remain exposed to horrific and unthinkable acts.”

In its statement, Zillow said that the company takes great pride in its work environment and the well being of all its employees.

“It’s incredibly important to us to create and maintain a work environment that is safe, comfortable and inclusive for everyone,” Zillow said. “Our people are our greatest asset as a company, and we take great pride in our strong culture and reputation as a best place to work.”

Warning: the text and images in the lawsuit are extremely graphic.

Click here to read the lawsuit in full.

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