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Zillow settles sexual harassment suits against supervisors

When an established company is hit with a long string of gender discrimination and harassment lawsuits by current and former female employees, and settles the cases for a substantial sum, it is time for the culture of the company to be studied, purged and re-formulated into an ethical business operation. The online real estate agency, Zillow, has been on the receiving end of numerous sexual harassment lawsuits filed in 2014, apparently in federal courts located in California. The complaints generally all claimed that there was an environment of sexual harassment of women employees and agents in the company's Irvine sales office.

An Orange County publication summed up the complaints as describing a "frat house" atmosphere, making it intolerable for women to work within the pressures of an alleged hostile work environment. Because the government usually allows employers to settle such cases without admitting wrongdoing, Zillow has agreed to pay the women but will not make any admissions of guilt. The amount of the settlements was not revealed.

The company stated a need for "closure" as the reason for settling. The allegations against Zillow included females being ranked by breast size, requests for sex, sexually explicit text messages, the texting of obscene photos and a pervasive environment of sexual dominance by male managers and bosses. Zillow admitted to some inappropriate problems but called the suits in general frivolous.

There were also lawsuits by black employees raising allegations of discriminatory treatment due to race. Another suit involved a whistleblower plaintiff who alleged that he was retaliated against for reporting a credit card scheme by co-workers. The sexual harassment and other lawsuits involved a variety of claims against supervisors and others at the Irvine office. Another lawsuit still pending in a California court is a class-action against Zillow for wage and hour claims on behalf of a large group of employees. This kind of a repetitive stream of litigation brought by employees seems to suggest a need for a managerial housecleaning and a company-wide invigoration of rules against employment discrimination.

Source:, "Zillow settles several suits alleging sexual harassment, discrimination", Ryan Smith, June 7, 2016

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