Six former sales representatives of Move Inc, the operator of Realtor.com, filed a lawsuit alleging that they were victims of an “abusive” and “toxic” work environment.
The defendants in the suit are Move parent company News Corp, the National Association of Realtors, and former Move executives Leo Jay and William “Bill” Sperry.
In the official, 88-page complaint filed on March 9, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the plaintiffs claim that they were told lies about Move’s products, which they “innocently” repeated to real estate agents. These alleged lies were designed to mislead customers about the quality and quantity of Move’s products and services, the lawsuit claims. The plaintiffs allege that they were told to push the “exclusive” nature of products and offer real estate agents discounts, preferred pricing, and other incentives in order to make sales. In the complaint the plaintiffs allege that this “frequently false” information was part of a “scheme to defraud customers/clients through each plaintiff.”
The complaint states: “Defendants knew that the information was false and incorrect and never had any intent to honor such pricing, incentives, and discounts. Moreover, when customers and clients discovered the fraudulent and false information, Defendants would blame each Plaintiff (and other salespersons) to the customer, punish each Plaintiff and remove the potential sale from each Plaintiff’s sales’ opportunities.”
When real estate agents canceled the services they had signed up for after they learned they were allegedly lied to, the suit alleges that the sales commissions were deducted from the sales representative’s compensation and then allegedly split among the defendants. The plaintiffs allege that this “claw back policy” was more harshly applied to employees who are over 40 years old.
The sales representatives involved in the suit also claim that employees who are members of a protected class received fewer resources, lower-quality assignments, lesser compensation and job benefits, less credit for accomplishments, harsher criticism and discipline, inaccurate and unfair performance reviews, fewer promotions, and less respect for their professional opinions.
The suit alleges that the defendants “produced a culture of racism, sexism, discrimination, harassment and retaliation” at the company and did not put in place the necessary background checks or training that would have helped promote a more positive and safer work environment.
Each of the six plaintiffs in the case filed a discrimination complaint against the defendants with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). After these complaints were filed, the suit alleges that instead of addressing the issues, the defendants retaliated against the plaintiffs with “less favorable working conditions and severe and blatant disparate treatment,” and “hostile, unprofessional, unlawful and tyrannical” behavior from Move’s former vice president of sales, Leo Jay.
According to the complaint, this forced the plaintiffs to adjust their “schedule, walking path, duties and efforts to avoid racist and discriminatory interactions with the identified managers and Supervisors who perpetrated such conduct.” In addition, “each plaintiff had to work longer hours (for which they were not paid), expend more energy and effort (physical and emotional) and work with less support (resources, interaction with supervisors and management), etc. to attempt to minimize the pervasiveness of the hostile and discriminatory environment,” the complaint states.
A spokesperson for NewsCorp and Move said in an email that, “We believe the allegations are without merit and we intend to vigorously defend against them.”
NAR has not returned RealTrend’s request for comment However, a spokesperson for NAR told Inman News, which first reported the lawsuit, that it expects to be dismissed from the case as it is not a joint employer as was incorrectly alleged.
In total, the plaintiffs allege 20 counts against the defendants in the complaint, including negligence; breach of contract; theft of sales commissions; unfair competition; fraud and deceit; age, gender, race, religious and disability discrimination; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and whistleblower retaliation.
This is not the first time Move’s practices have been called into question. In January 2018, former Move sales representative Brian Bobrik alleged that he was wrongfully terminated from Move in retaliation for objecting to and refusing to participate in what he believed to be unlawful conduct as well as for requesting accommodations for a disability. In September 2020, Moves former senior vice president of industry relations, Suzanne Mueller, filed her own suit alleging that the company discriminated against her on the basis of sex and age. Mueller also alleged that the company retaliated against her for participating in a sexual harassment investigation against a NAR executive. Both lawsuits have been settled.