From Zillow's Orange County Office: Another Employee Lawsuit

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 17, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Zillow might be better off burning down this office.

First opened in 2012 as an office for selling ads to real estate agents, Zillow's Irvine, California, office has become a hotbed for employee lawsuits. There was the sexual harassment lawsuit that we blogged about earlier this month. And this week, Geragos & Geragos, the law firm of famed attorney Mark Geragos, dropped another off another lawsuit at the clerk's office -- the sixth such lawsuit in three weeks.

Among the allegations: Sexual harassment. Unpaid overtime. Race, religion, and age discrimination. They say that where there is smoke, there is fire. Fire doesn't sound too bad right now, especially if these lawsuits end up costing more than the office brings in.

More Zillow Fights

Seriously GCs: Thank your lucky stars that you don't work at Zillow. Here are just some of the fun allegations that they'll be dealing with in court, courtesy of LAist's lengthy recapping of the lengthy filings:

  • One employee allegedly suffered hearing loss after being forced to work next to a speaker blaring techno music;
  • Another employee was allegedly fired after taking leave for back surgery;
  • A group of black employees was allegedly assigned to a black supervisor and placed in the back of the office. They claim they were referred to individually as "Samuel Jackson" or "Bagger Vance," and collectively as the "NAACP black coalition";
  • Older employees were allegedly told that they couldn't keep up with younger employees;
  • An employee was allegedly told to take down his profile photo because it contained Christian-themed messages;
  • Employees were allegedly told that they shouldn't take lunch breaks if the company provided meals;
  • Employees were allegedly pressured to work early and stay late without pay; and
  • Employees were allegedly harassed and fired for reporting credit card fraud, forged contracts, and the use of unlicensed agents to consult with clients, reports the Orange County Register.

Oh, Hey Gabe!

One of the alleged villains in the sexual harassment lawsuit was supervisor Gabe Schmidt, who repeatedly sent offensive texts, including a picture message of his penis (which was attached to the complaint), to a female employee, Rachel Kremer.

Gabe made another appearance in this round of filings, with a screen capture of a text he allegedly sent to Rachel. (The text began: "Joke of the day - A black woman can tell if she is pregnant if..." and ended with an offensive punchline.)

Why did that nastygram make an appearance in this week's filing? As mentioned above, one of the claims involves racial discrimination. For its part, Zillow has already fired Schmidt and fired back in court with its own filing, accusing the plaintiffs' counsel of selectively picking out pieces of two friends' years-long back-and-forth banter, reports the OC Register.

"Zillow does not -- and will not -- tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind," the company's statement said. "The referenced text messages reflect completely unacceptable behavior. ... 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.

"This is the sixth lawsuit filed against Zillow in the past three weeks by the same firm, which is pushing a narrative completely inconsistent with those who know and work with Zillow," the statement continued.

Kremer's counsel accused Zillow of victim-blaming, said that her supervisors brainwashed her into participating in the offensive texting, and that the entire matter is irrelevant because she is claiming that she was fired for not sleeping with her superiors. (Not relevant, except all of those texts that you attached to your complaint. Wink, wink.)

Editor's Note, December 19, 2014: This post has been updated to include a statement from Zillow, and to clarify the number of lawsuits recently filed by Geragos & Geragos against the company.

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