Six former sales employees of Realtor.com parent company Move Inc have filed a lawsuit against the company claiming that they were forced to lie about the portal's products to agents and that the company operates a "toxic" work environment.
Move Inc is owned by the Australian media giant News Corp and is the official listings portal of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). All three companies are named as defendants in the suit along with Move executives Leo Jay and William “Bill” Sperry.
The suit, filed on the 9th of March, includes no fewer than 20 complaints against the defendants including discrimination, negligence, breach of contract, whistleblower retaliation and fraud.
Alleging that the company discriminated against them on grounds of gender, race and age, the plaintiffs say that Move "refused to properly address complaints of discrimination and/or to undertake any effective measures to address, minimize and/or eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace" and that they were "treated in an inequitable, unfair, discriminatory and disparate manner".
Perhaps the most serious allegation included in the suit is that of fraud. The plaintiffs say that they were lied to by company executives about the exclusivity, quality and quantity of Realtor.com's products and services which they were then made to sell to the portal's agent customers. The suit claims that the sales staff in this case were:
"... unaware of the fraudulent nature of the sales information being provided to Plaintiffs by the Defendants and therefore innocently communicated such information to customers and clients"
According to the lawsuit, when customers complained or cancelled the services "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" and that "When such sales were then consummated, the Defendants would retain or redistribute the commission that would have otherwise been payable to each Plaintiff".
The ex-employees also claim that the practise was not just the work of a few bad apples at the company and that "their senior executives, managing agents, managers, directors and officers knew"
Move Inc gave an emailed statement to U.S. realtor news outlet Inman which stated that the company believes the suit to be "without merit" while an NAR statement said: "We have not been served, and NAR is not a joint employer as incorrectly alleged, so we expect to be dismissed from the lawsuit."
Realtor.com is no stranger to legal controversy, in 2010 the portal's former Chairman and CEO Stuart Wolff was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for his part in a securities fraud scandal which saw several other employees implicated and caused "widespread injury to untold numbers of people in the stock market".
The portal has faced two lawsuits that took aim at its employment practices in the intervening years. A 2018 suit accused Move Inc of similar attempts to defraud agents and a suit in 2021 accused a former company executive of sexual harassment and negligence on the part of the company. Both suits were settled out of court.
Move Inc is hardly the only American portal operator with legal and staffing issues at the moment. Zillow's docket has been filling up recently and commercial real estate giant CoStar has been dealing with the fallout from a Business Insider article claiming the company operates a "toxic" work culture as well as the alleged arson of a car belonging to an unnamed company executive.