One man alleging age discrimination, another claiming religious discrimination and three more leveling accusations of race discrimination are suing Irvine real estate company Zillow. Yes, that Zillow, the one my colleague R. Scott Moxley just reported on being sued by a woman who alleges she was subjected to sexual harassment that included a supervisor sending her a text that read: "Joke of the day – A black woman can tell if she is pregnant if she pulls out her tampon and all the cotton has been picked off." Ah, the classics!
Besides disgusting allegations culled from Zillow's Orange County offices, all the plaintiffs have this in common: They are represented by Geragos & Geragos, the Los Angeles law firm whose founding partner is celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos. But don't hold that against them, they would argue. Oh, snap, yes, the plaintiffs in the most recent suit filed in federal court are:
* Stephen Johnson, Reginald Peterson and Ryan Seda, African Americans who allege Zillow supervisors discriminated against them because of their race. They claim they were moved to the back of a sales office, prevented from receiving certain sales calls and were referred to by Senior Sales Manager Jon Boller as "Samuel Jackson," "Bagger Vance" or, when all together, the "NAACP black coalition."
* Johnson again, Michael Kerr and Jason Youseph, who allege age discrimination. Johnson, 45, claims younger supervisors told him he couldn't keep up with younger employees. Kerr says he has suffered hearing damage due to supervisors yelling in his ear and blasting techno music, and when he complained, his managers told him his hearing loss was due to his age. And when he said he wanted to file a worker's compensation claim, he was told he could either continue working or quit; he chose the latter. Youseph claims that when he had to have surgery on a herniated disk, he was first put on probation by supervisors and then he was told he had to make up 2,100 minutes of sales calls. He claims he was ordered to put a letter reprimanding him on display on his desk when he did not meet the goal, and that when he finally made up the minutes, Gabe Schmidt–the since-fired manager from Rachel Kremer's sexual harassment suit–told him he should rip up the letter as a reward. Youseph claims that when he informed supervisors he needed another surgery, he was told he was being fired for "insubordination" because he ripped up the letter.
* Seda again alleges religious discrimination, claiming that he was told to remove his Zillow profile photo which read "God over money" and "Thank you lord" because he was told there was no place for religious imagery in the office. However, he says other employees were allowed to keep Zillow avatars that featured them smoking, taking shots or partying.
Zillow has been too busy responding to Kremer's suit to whip up something on the latest allegations. For instance, when it comes to the tampon joke that opened this post, Katie Curnutte, Zillow's senior director of Communications and Public Affairs, provided this statement:
Zillow does not–and will not–tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. We have just been notified of this complaint and are currently investigating these allegations. The referenced text messages reflect completely unacceptable behavior, and the individual allegedly responsible was already terminated as the result of a separate investigation. The alleged behavior is completely inconsistent with Zillow's culture and core values, where we work hard to create and maintain a work environment that is safe, comfortable and inclusive for everyone.
But Zillow also recently filed a motion to dismiss Kremer's lawsuit, admitting that while the sexually charged texts were inappropriate, she often reciprocated and initiated lewd messages. "We intend to vigorously defend this lawsuit," the company vows.
Geragos & Geragos associate Ben Meiselas has called Zillow's response to Kremer's sexual harassment allegations a "blame-the-victim approach," claiming that his client was brainwashed by the company culture that rewarded the types of lewd text messages she allegedly sent Schmidt.
Meanwhile, Geragos & Geragos has filed yet another lawsuit against Zillow, this one claiming management retaliated against former sales consultant James Friedrich, who is characterized by the plaintiff lawyers as a whistleblower. When Friedrich found out Zillow managers in Irvine were pulling a scheme involving fake accounts and fraudulent advertising sales, he reported the behavior–only to have his bosses make his life so miserable he quit, alleges his complaint.
Both the Orange County Register and Orange County Business Journal have singled out Zillow as one of the best places to work in Orange County. God over money help us.