Zillow has built up a $4.5 billion valuation by amassing an immense real estate database. But a lawsuit filed in a California court accuses the company of cultivating an "adult frat house" culture in which female employees are constantly solicited for sex by co-workers, ranked on their breast size, and fired if they refuse to play along.
The lawsuit, first reported by The Recorder, describes working at Zillow as "sexual torture." Emphasis added:
Plaintiff Rachel Kremer began her employment enthusiastically with Defendant Zillow, Inc. ("Zillow") on June 25, 2012 as an Inside Sales Consultant. Ms. Kremer quickly learned that Zillow had a pervasive culture of degrading women. Ms. Kremer's male supervisors ranked her according to her breast size, sent pictures of their penis to her, and demanded sexual gratification and obedience by Ms. Kremer to continue her employment. Ms. Kremer's experience was not limited to one supervisor, but instead, was pervasive throughout Zillow's leadership. 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. Sadly, for Ms. Kremer, by not participating in this culture, she felt she would be outcast, and terminated. Eventually, after experiencing the most heinous acts of sexual harassment imaginable, Ms. Kremer was terminated. Zillow attempted to cover up their conduct by having Ms. Kremer sign a confidentiality agreement and release. Ms. Kremer brings this action based on the sexual torture she endured, and for the other women who have been silenced at Zillow, and remain exposed to horrific and unthinkable acts.
The suit reveals multiple text message and emails sent to Kremer by co-workers and managers. Many of those texts include explicit sexual advances, including one sent by Cody Fagnant, a Zillow sales manager:
The plaintiff's supervisor, Gabe Schmidt, is also named in the suit for sending harassing texts. One message identified in the suit shows Schmidt lacing an invitation to an after-work function with sexual solicitation:
Kremer's lawyers say that she reported the sexual harassment, but the company took no action. In one case, she reported a coworker for watching explicit videos at work to Schmidt. Her boss advised her to report the incident. Then he casually wondered if the coworker jerked off to her Salesforce profile picture:
In another instance, a co-worker texted the victim an unsolicited photo of his erect penis:
The suit also alleges supervisors created nicknames for female employees based on their breast size:
The suit goes on to describe Zillow's Souther California office as an "adult frat house" where "sexual harassment and misconduct are normalized, condoned, and promoted by male managers."
Ultimately, Kremer was fired after repeatedly rejecting sexual advances from multiple male managers. The company told her she was terminated "due to her failure to meet her sales goals for the two preceding months." However, she was given no advance warning about her performance, and the suit claims her performance was "nearly identical" to another employee hired around the same time. Kremer believes her opposition to her harassment was the real reason she was cut.
In a statement emailed to The Recorder, Zillow's COO stated the company was investigating the claims made in the lawsuit, but denied any company-wide culture problems.