Marcus & Millichap agent hit with sexual harassment suit

Lawsuit alleges culture of bad office behavior including cocaine use, prostitutes and male salespersons slapping female assistants on their rear ends

Marcus & Millichap office (Credit: Public Domain Pictures)
Marcus & Millichap office (Credit: Public Domain Pictures)
UPDATED, 11:16 a.m., Sept. 21, 2018: Adina Hemley’s lawsuit has been dismissed. Hemley requested the dismissal.

A former employee at Marcus & Millichap has filed a complaint against the commercial brokerage and one of its agents, alleging she was sexually harassed and then fired for complaining.

In a lawsuit filed on July 17 in Los Angeles Superior Court, Adina Hemley Talkov claims she was repeatedly propositioned for sex by Kevin Boeve, a senior vice president at the company’s office in Ontario, Calif. When she turned him down, he would allegedly punish her by refusing to provide her with leads and advancement opportunities.

Documents newly obtained by The Real Deal reveal that prior to Hemley’s suit, Boeve filed for a temporary restraining order against her. The order cited “harassing” and “disparaging” emails from Hemley to Boeve. Lawyers for Boeve called the allegations against him “wild and inflammatory.”

Her attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Hemley is suing for damages, including wrongful termination in violation of policy, retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act and labor code, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She worked as a sales associate for the brokerage from November 2015 to June 2017.

The suit also details instances where managers allegedly snorted cocaine off their desks, male salespersons slapped female assistants on their rear ends, and strippers and possibly prostitutes visited the workplace.

Hemley claims that in May 2017 she complained about the issues to a regional manager, a senior vice president and a compliance officer. Later that month, she raised the complaints with Hessam Nadji, the firm’s president and CEO, who advised her to report them to human resources.

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She met with human resources in early June to discuss the harassment, and was fired June 17 for being late to a meeting, the suit alleges.

Boeve is an industry veteran who first joined the firm in 1996. He rose through the ranks to become a regional manager at the firm’s Ontario and Palm Springs offices in 2013, according to Marcus & Millichap’s website. He returned to client representation in 2016 as senior vice president of investments.

Hemley is seeking punitive damages for lost earnings, legal costs and interest on loss of wages and benefits.

A spokesperson for the brokerage, Gina Relva, declined to comment on Hemley’s suit. But, she said, “we can state that maintaining a work environment that is free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation is of paramount importance to us.”

The suit is the latest allegation to come out of the #MeToo movement, where thousands of women have decried alleged misconduct in a variety of industries. In commercial real estate, a dramatic gender gap has made it especially difficult for women to advance up the ranks, while also paving the way for instances of misconduct.

In a study published in May by National Real Estate Investor, nearly three-quarters of 252 respondents said that discrimination occurs in the industry. The hurdles include receiving a lower salary than someone of another gender or sexual orientation for doing the same job, and being passed over for assignments and promotions.

An earlier study, also published by NREI, showed that 90 percent of women said that sexual harassment occurs in the real estate industry.

The #MeToo movement has caused some real estate and development firms to take a closer look at some of the industry events they’re sponsoring. In New York, this past holiday season was significantly tamer than the the ones in the past, thanks in part to a heightened awareness.