Zillow, an online real estate firm, was sued earlier this week by a former female employee who claims that she was sexually harassed, propositioned for sex, and was subjected to what she described as “sexual torture,” according to the Recorder.
The suit, filed by Rachel Kremer, claims that supervisors at Zillow’s Irvine location created an “adult frat house” in the office, refused to handle the harassment when reported, and fired Kremer when she brought attention to the continued harassment.
“Privately, Zillow executives bragged that the office culture led to more sexual encounters than Match.com, and referred to the internal office directory as ‘Zinder,’ named after the dating application Tinder,” reads the suit.
Kremer’s attorneys included lewd messages and emails she received from December 2012 until her termination in August.
“I have a great opportunity that just opened up on my face in the 92660 market,” Cody Fagnat, sales manager, said to Kremer in a text message. “Call me if you are interested. This is an executive position and won’t last long. Haha. Goodnight Rachey.”
Kremer also received text messages from Gabe Schmidt, her supervisor, inviting her to an after-work event, that said “Thinking 333 dinner drinks and your smooth vagina,” and “Wanna blow me and have sex tonight?”
Schmidt also sent Kremer a picture of his genitalia and referred to another female employee as “Rachel 2.0,” saying she had “bigger breasts and less miles on her” than Kremer.
“Zillow attempted to cover up their conduct by having Ms. Kremer sign a confidentiality agreement and release,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Kremer brings this action based on the sexual torture endured, and for the other women who have been silenced at Zillow, and remain exposed to horrific and unthinkable acts.”
Kremer was told she was fired over her sales figure – Zillow claims she did not meet her sales goals for July and August of this year – but the suit says Kremer was never told about these performance issues before her termination, and that her work was “nearly identical” to other employees.
Zillow’s corporate spokesperson, Jill Simmons, said in a statement that the company takes allegations of harassment “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,” said Simmons. “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.”
Hopefully Zillow does take these allegations seriously, but given the length of time Kremer was subjected to the harassment, and her termination after coming forward about it, it’s highly doubtful that they do. As long as workers are punished for speaking out about sexual harassment, the “frat house” workplace is likely to remain.