Former Real Estate Website Employee Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Company, Multiple Unnamed Individuals Identified as “Doe” Defendants

A lawsuit against a company that operates a real estate website alleges severe and ongoing sexual harassment by the company’s management, ultimately resulting in the plaintiff’s termination in retaliation for rebuffing what she describes as “the most heinous acts of sexual harassment imaginable.” Kremer v. Zillow, Inc., et al, No. 8:14-cv-01889, complaint at 2 (C.D. Cal., Dec. 1, 2014). The complaint names the company as a defendant, but no individual executives, managers, or supervisors. Instead, it uses the fictitious names “Does 1 through 50,” stating that the plaintiff does not know the individuals’ “true names and capacities,” id., but will amend her complaint with the court’s leave in the future.

The plaintiff began working for the defendant company as an inside sales consultant in June 2012, and she remained there until August 2014. She describes the company as having a “pervasive culture of degrading women” and claims that the company’s management “bragged that the office culture led to more sexual encounters than” Id. She states that she felt pressure to participate in, or at least accept, this environment for fear of being “outcast, and terminated.” Id. She describes multiple specific incidents of harassment, including an attempt by a co-worker to demand explicit photographs from her in exchange for resetting her email password, which was part of his job at the company. Company managers and executives, she alleges, directly propositioned her for sexual activity in person and via text message on an ongoing basis.

The company terminated her employment in August 2014 after informing her that she had failed to meet her sales quotas two months in a row. She claims that the ongoing harassment impeded her work performance, but that the company gave her no advance notice that her job was in danger. She also alleges that she was not allowed to explain her decreased performance, which went against the company’s usual practice. Another employee with “nearly identical” sales numbers, she claims, was not fired. Id. at 6.

The lawsuit asserts causes of action for sexual harassment, civil harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination under state law. A similar lawsuit in New York would cite the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. L. § 290 et seq. The lawsuit also asserts common law claims for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as negligent retention and hiring. The plaintiff filed in federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, since she resides in California, the defendant is incorporated in the state of Washington, and the amount in controversy is more than $75,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The court can hear the common law claims under supplemental jurisdiction rules. 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

The name “Doe” refers to the placeholder names “John Doe” and “Jane Doe,” which are used when a person’s real name is unknown or the person wants to remain anonymous. This is a common practice in many types of lawsuits, particularly those involving anonymous internet users. See, e.g. Arista Records, LLC. v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110 (2nd Cir. 2010). A plaintiff in a sexual harassment lawsuit might not have enough evidence to determine who, within an organization, bears responsibility for policing workplace harassment. Filing suit against a company and multiple “Does” affords the opportunity to obtain more information through discovery and subpoenas.

The sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates represent New York City employees, former employees, and job seekers in claims for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and discrimination. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with member of our team.

More Blog Posts:

Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against New York City Hospital Asserts Claims for Infliction of Emotional Distress, Slander, New York Employment Attorney Blog, January 14, 2015
Former New York City Schoolteacher Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for $115,000, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 30, 2014
New York Investment Bank Faces Multiple Lawsuits Alleging Sexual Harassment and Retaliation, New York Employment Attorney Blog, December 17, 2014

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