Real Estate

Sexual Harassment Suit Against Move Settles

The case alleging Move failed to provide a safe working environment and retaliated against Suzanne Mueller for participating in a sexual harassment investigation against an NAR executive was dismissed at the request of both parties.

A sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Suzanne Mueller, the face of realtor.com at dozens of industry events over the last several years, against the site’s operator, News Corp. subsidiary Move Inc., has been settled and dismissed permanently.

In a September 2020 complaint, attorneys for Mueller alleged Move discriminated against Mueller on the basis of sex and age and failed to provide “a safe working environment and failed to adequately supervise employees,” including Move’s former chief revenue officer, Raymond Picard, who was ousted in May 2020 as part of leadership shake-ups at the company. Mueller was 56 years old at the time and Picard was one of her supervisors.

Suzanne Mueller

“Plaintiff was the subject of verbal, sexual innuendo and has suffered as a result of the sexually charged atmosphere,” Mueller’s attorneys wrote in the complaint.

“The environment of harassment and discrimination was hostile and abusive towards women and unreasonably interfered with many female employees’ work performance.”

“Defendant took no effectual action to stop the harassment directed at women despite actual and/or constructive knowledge of such unlawful activity, and, in fact, often condoned such harassment,” the complaint added.

The complaint offered a litany of comments allegedly uttered by Picard and Move’s executive vice president of software, who is unnamed, but the complaint said was also male and also supervised Mueller. The filing also mentioned sexual harassment allegations against at least one executive of the National Association of Realtors.

The filing alleged that a female Move employee claimed she had been sexually harassed in the workplace by Ken Burlington, a NAR vice president and chief operating officer of the Realtors Information Network. RIN, a NAR subsidiary, oversees the trade group’s realtor.com agreement with Move. Asked for comment at the time, NAR said its policy was not to comment on personnel matters.

Mueller reported the harassment and supplied corroborating information to Move’s chief people officer, who was conducting the investigation, and Move’s legal counsel. According to the complaint, Move notified Mueller that she was being laid off on May 4, 2020. The complaint alleges she was wrongfully terminated for reporting and participating in a sexual harassment investigation and for her “support of coworkers’ complaints of sexual harassment.”

The complaint alleged negligent supervision, negligent retention, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual harassment, age discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful discharge. It sought back pay and compensation for past and future financial and non-financial losses, including emotional pain, suffering, anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and damage to reputation. The complaint was later amended to allege willful withholding of wages as well.

In a motion to dismiss also filed September 2020, Move asked the court to toss six of the seven allegations and to require Mueller to clarify one of her allegations in an amended complaint.

“Mueller does not plead facts showing that Move had knowledge of managers’ alleged unfitness or that Move failed to exercise reasonable care to discover the alleged unfitness,” the filing says.

“To be sure, she repeatedly alleges that managers made inappropriate comments to her, … but she does not allege why Move should have known about their alleged comments or why Move should have discovered these alleged comments,” the filing continues. “Specifically, she never alleges that she told anyone about these allegedly inappropriate comments, let alone complained about them to anyone at Move. Based on the face of her complaint, she has not pled facts sufficient to show that Move knew or should have known about the allegedly unlawful behavior.”

On June 9, Move and Mueller filed a joint motion asking that the case be dismissed with prejudice, meaning permanently, with no details on the agreement between the parties. The court granted the dismissal the next day.

Move declined to comment on the settlement and dismissal. Mueller did not respond to a request for comment.

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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