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Zillow Lawsuits: 3 Legal Lessons for Business Owners

Online real estate marketplace Zillow was hit with five new lawsuits this week alleging employee discrimination, retaliation, and other mistreatment of workers.

The five lawsuits were all filed by the law firm of Geragos & Geragos, reports LAist. Geragos & Geragos is the same law firm representing a Zillow employee who sued the company earlier this month for sexual harassment. In that lawsuit, former Zillow employee Rachel Kremer described the company's Irvine, California office as having an "adult frat house" culture. The latest lawsuits also involve employees who worked at the Irvine office.

What can small business owners learn from these employment lawsuits filed against Zillow? Here are three lessons:

  1. Racial comments can lead to discrimination lawsuits. Racial comments made in the workplace by supervisors or other workers may lead to race discrimination lawsuits such as the ones filed against Zillow -- even when the comments are meant to be "jokes." Three of the five lawsuits filed against the company this week were by African-American men who alleged that supervisors referred to them, collectively, as the "NAACP black coalition" or individually as "Samuel L. Jackson" and "Bagger Vance."
  2. Many states require employers to provide meal breaks. Although not required under federal law, many states --including California, where the Zillow office is located -- require that employees must be provided unpaid time off for a meal break if they work the required number of hours in a day. Among documents included with the latest lawsuits filed against Zillow is an email from a supervisor instructing employees not to take a lunch break on days where lunch is provided to them at work in order to increase productivity.
  3. Discrimination, harassment may be considered constructive termination. In circumstances in which an employee resigns due intolerable or hostile working conditions created by harassment or discrimination, an employer may be found liable for a constructive discharge, a form of wrongful termination.

In a statement regarding the latest lawsuits reported by LAist, a Zillow spokesman wrote "Zillow does not--and will not--tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. We have just been notified of this complaint and are currently investigating these allegations."

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