A former loanDepot employee has filed a lawsuit against the company and its CEO, Anthony Hsieh, for allegedly discriminating against him due to his physical disabilities and his sexual orientation. This is the second lawsuit filed this year that alleges a toxic culture at the California-based nonbank lender.
Trevor Dickens, 29, worked for loanDepot from 2015-2017 and 2020-2021, at the call center located in Plano (TX), when the company allegedly refused accommodations for his medical needs and subjected him to humiliation and anti-homosexual slurs.
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
According to Dickens’s attorney, Mark Robinius, managing partner at Robinius, Espinosa & Wietzel, LLP, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contacted both parties to engage in mediation, but loanDepot declined. Dickens is seeking $10 million in damages.
LoanDepot, the nation’s second-largest retail lender, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
In his lawsuit, Dickens claims to have suffered an injury to his back in 2015 and, after eight lower back and spinal cord surgeries, relied on a wheelchair to ambulate. Due to his medical conditions, he also made frequent trips to the restroom and could not sit in a chair for long periods without pain, he said in the lawsuit.
His job was to receive and make calls to customers and pass them along to loan officers. The lender knew about Dickens’s conditions before he was hired, Dickens’s lawsuit claims.
Still, the lawsuit claims that loanDepot’s call center permitted the employees to have only 10 minutes per workday to use the restroom. Otherwise, management would subject them to administrative discipline, a written warning, or, in some cases, termination, the suit alleges.
“Under a point system, call center employees received demerits in their LoanDepot human resource file if they left their desks for more than 10-minutes per workday,” the lawsuit states.
Dickens alleges that he submitted physician notes asking his exclusion from the rule, but was allegedly told by management, “you need to be on the phone and not on the toilet.”
Dickens also claims that the company refused to accommodate his sexual orientation by punishing him for terminating customers’ calls after they uttered homophobic slurs. The former employee was required to keep potential customers on the phone to gather information, despite anti-gay insults, his lawsuit alleges.
“Rather than accommodating Dickens’ sexual orientation, LoanDepot management admonished him for not practicing their ‘rebuttal’ techniques and withstanding the highly offensive verbal abuse from the potential customers,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit adds that Dickens left the company in 2017, fell into a state of depression and self-medicated with alcohol. In April 2020, after achieving sobriety, he was re-hired. By November, long periods of sitting stationary exacerbated pain and he needed an emergency back surgery. In August of 2021, Dickens resigned.
According to the lawsuit, Dickens dreamed of becoming a mortgage loan officer but was never promoted due to physical disabilities and sexual orientation.
“We intend to aggressively prosecute this case to win a measure of justice for Mr. Dickens as well as the other gay and disabled people out there who are being forced to endure the chauvinistic and unaccommodating boiler room culture of LoanDepot,” Robinius said in a statement to HousingWire.
In another lawsuit that takes aim at loanDepot’s culture, Tammy Richards, former chief operations officer, includes multiple allegations that male company executives created and enforced a “misogynistic frat house culture” that routinely led to women being harassed and demeaned.
Richards also alleges that Hsieh ordered the sales team to trust borrowers and close loans, disregarding proper underwriting standards. The former executive is seeking $75 million in the lawsuit.
In an SEC filing this month, company management said they do not believe the allegations have merit, but “defending such allegations could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources.”