Warning: The following contains language some may find offensive.
A former employee of the online real estate firm Zillow is suing the company for on-the-job harassment described as “sexual torture” in a complaint filed Monday in a California federal court.
Rachel Kremer was hired by Zillow, the country’s largest real estate listings Web site, as a sales consultant in June 2012 and “quickly learned that Zillow had a pervasive culture of degrading women,” the complaint said.
The suit alleges more than one of Kremer’s male supervisors “ranked her according to her breast size, sent pictures of their penis to her, and demanded sexual gratification and obedience” as a condition of employment. She claims Zillow executives bragged their office was better than the dating app Tinder for hookups and referred to the employee directory as “Zinder.”
Zillow spokesman Jill Simmons told the OC Weekly: “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.” Simmons added the allegations “do not reflect Zillow’s culture or workplace and are completely inconsistent with our values.”
Simmons told the paper that the company has been repeatedly named a “best workplace” by media outlets and can withstand scrutiny.
“It’s incredibly important to us to create and maintain a work environment that is safe, comfortable and inclusive for everyone,” she said. “Our people are our greatest asset as a company, and we take great pride in our strong culture and reputation as a best place to work.”
The lawsuit compares Zillow’s Irvine office to an “adult frat house” where “sexual harassment and misconduct are normalized, condoned, and promoted by male managers.”
Male managers often had sex with female sales reps and talked about women in degrading terms, the complaint alleges. One of Kremer’s supervisors allegedly described a new employee as “Rachel 2.0” because she looked like another employee with the same name, but had “bigger breasts and less miles on her.”
The same supervisor allegedly responded to a request to reset her e-mail password by asking for a photo of her breasts. Other text messages included crude sexual requests. Another co-worker allegedly cornered Kremer while drunk and propositioned her for sex on two different occasions.
According to the complaint, Kremer reported the alleged harassment, but the company did nothing to stop it. In one instance, her boss advised her to report when she saw another co-worker watching explicit videos, but then he jokingly mused that perhaps that co-worker masturbated to her Salesforce profile picture.
The lawsuit says Kremer was recognized for her performance several times and consistently met her sales goals until July and August of 2014, when she claims the stress of her hostile work environment became too much. At the end of August, she alleged she was fired without warning. The stated reason was her failure to meet sales goals.
Kremer alleges she was fired for reporting the harassment and refusing to participate in it.
Kremer is seeking unspecified damages for sexual harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and emotional distress.
She has retained counsel from celebrity law firm Geragos & Geragos.