Zillow has fired a sales manager in the company’s southern California office, following an internal investigation which found misconduct tied to sexual harassment of a fellow employee.
The news of the firing comes a day after a federal lawsuit was filed against Zillow by former sales associate Rachel Kremer, who alleged that the Irvine, California-based office had an “adult frat house” culture that contributed to the sexual harassment. Working there, she said, was like “sexual torture.”
Kremer alleges in the complaint that she faced numerous instances of sexual harassment from her co-worker, Sales Manager Gabe Schmidt. Schmidt reportedly called another female co-worker “Rachel 2.0,” because he said she was like “Rachel but with bigger breasts and less miles on her.” Schmidt also sent Kremer an unsolicited picture of a penis, in addition to other sexually explicit messages.
Schmidt was fired prior to the lawsuit being filed, according to a source close to the investigation.
The complaint alleges that the comments were made by “Zillow management,” but company spokeswoman Dawn Lyon said that none of the people named in the complaint were Kremer’s supervisor.
Kremer’s complaint, first reported on by The Recorder, also implicates a number of Zillow’s other male employees, including a sales manager, who on two separate occasions, cornered her while he was drunk at a party and said “I want to f– the s– out of you.” A Zillow IT technician responded to Kremer’s request for a password reset — forwarded through Schmidt — with the comment: “Only trade password for boob pix. Haha jk.”
Only one person has been fired in the internal investigation.
In a statement provided to GeekWire, the company said that it took the allegations very seriously, and has already investigated Kremer’s claims.
“Zillow takes any allegations about our 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. 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.
It’s incredibly important to us to create and maintain a work environment that is safe, comfortable and inclusive for everyone. 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.”
Kremer was told in August that she was being terminated for failing to meet sales goals for two months. According to the complaint, she wasn’t given any warning or an opportunity to explain the decline in her performance, and another employee from her same hire class with nearly identical performance was not fired at the same time.
Geragos and Geragos, the law firm representing Kremer, has brought two additional lawsuits against Zillow. They allege that the company retaliated against another former employee who worked at its Orange County office, and withheld overtime pay from full-time sales consultants in California.
Zillow has received numerous awards naming it one of the best places to work, including a pair from the Orange County Business Journal, and one from the Orange County Register.
The suits come at a tough time for Zillow, which is in the process of acquiring rival Trulia for $3.5 billion. The FTC recently requested additional information about the acquisition, pushing back the date the two companies expected to complete the deal. Zillow is now valued at $4.5 billion.
Kremer’s full complaint is embedded below.