Redfin’s latest challenge: Defending its employment practices in court

Former broker in San Diego alleges firm violated state law by failing to pay minimum wage or overtime

Redfin's Glenn Kelman
Redfin's Glenn Kelman

In his one year as a Redfin agent in San Diego County, Jason Bell said the brokerage failed to pay him minimum wage or overtime and did not allow for meal and rest breaks as guaranteed by the state.

Those are among the California labor law violations Bell is accusing Redfin of in a federal lawsuit he filed Friday in the Southern District. Bell, who was fired from the company in December 2019, seeks class action status for his suit.

Bell’s complaint shines a light on the brokerage and listing platform’s unique employment practices.

Redfin stands out among brokerages for classifying many of its agents as salaried employees, not independent contractors. That was the case with Bell, who started with the company in November 2018, according to the lawsuit. Under his employment contract, Bell alleges he had over 40 hours a week worth of obligations to Redfin, and often worked 60 to 80 hours a week, according to the suit.

He claims Redfin did not compensate him for the additional hours, and, in fact, was paying him much less than California’s $12 an hour minimum wage. His salary, he alleges, was $12,000 for the year.

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Then in March 2019, Redfin “improperly switched plaintiff from an employee to independent contractor position, in order to avoid” meeting California labor standards, the complaint claims. “However…the defendant maintained the same level of control over the plaintiff,” even after Bell became an independent contractor, the suit alleges.

Bell said Redin fired him after the company received a complaint he was late to a home showing; he denies he was late.

The complaint is the latest challenge for the Seattle-based company in what has been a tumultuous year industrywide. Redfin furloughed 40 percent of its agents in March as the pandemic was taking hold — it rehired 83 percent by late July — and more recently faced charges of unfair treatment against minority employees. After a difficult second quarter, Redfin rebounded in Q3, posting $32.4 million in net income on $237 million in revenue.

Redfin did not respond to messages.

Bell now works at LightHaus Realty, a brokerage in Poway on the outskirts of San Diego. Messages left with Bell and his lawyer, Abbas Kazerounian, were not returned.

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