NAR hunkers down as agents push back: The Download

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Each week on The Download, Inman’s Christy Murdock takes a deeper look at the top-read stories of the week to give you what you’ll need to meet Monday head-on. This week: As NAR dismisses harassment claims, women in the industry speak up about what they’ve seen — up close and personal.

“Finger-pointing and justifications….”

“Humans are fallible…”

“What a one-sided suggestion!”

The comments on last week’s The Download seemed to run along one of two tracks: Questioning NAR in the face of a lawsuit about sexual harassment and racial discrimination is tantamount to finding someone guilty without trial and, second, that a call for volunteer leadership to effect change is pointless.

At the same time, women across the industry are calling, writing, texting, meeting and talking about what they’ve experienced and what they know. We’re at the beginning of (yet another) conversation about the bad behavior of men in positions of power, and there are a lot of women who want and deserve to be part of that conversation. Women who’ve experienced discrimination, harassment and more.

People are angry, and NAR’s dismissals and denials don’t seem to be working, at least so far.

NAR pushes back on harassment claim amid growing agent backlash by Jim Dalrymple II, Andrea V. Brambila and Dani Vanderboegh

UPDATE: Nine days after accusing the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and President Kenny Parcell of racial and sexual harassment, a woman who used to work for the trade organization has withdrawn her case. Read the full story here.

Days after a new lawsuit accused the National Association of Realtors and President Kenny Parcell of sexual and racial harassment, the trade organization revealed it previously knew about and investigated the claims — and reiterated that it rejects them — even as industry members demanded accountability on Friday.

In a statement to Inman following initial reporting around the lawsuit, NAR spokesperson Mantill Williams revealed that NAR “previously, thoroughly investigated the claims in this lawsuit by hiring an independent, outside law firm to conduct the investigation and advise on lawful outcomes.” Based on the findings in that investigation, NAR rejected the claims and promised to “vigorously defend against them.”

The allegations alone rattled the industry, with a number of agents demanding action and indicating that their faith in NAR is shaken.

“What’s especially sickening in this case, is that NAR is not just a company or a trade organization, it is purportedly the bastion of ethical compliance for all of the companies, leaders, and agents in our field,” Melissa V. Stone, an eXp Realty agent in Arkansas, told Inman in a call for accountability.

Author, trainer and Inman contributor Bernice Ross argued that “allowing such behaviors to persist is not only morally wrong, but it’s also illegal.”

“The president of NAR should be a role model who sets the tone for the organization’s behavior,” Ross continued. “His behavior should exemplify the highest standards of professional conduct.”

If NAR thought their denial would calm the frustrations of members who are focused on the treatment of all the dues-paying members, they badly miscalculated. Their denials only seemed to stir up a hornet’s nest of recrimination and generated many more questions than answers.

Women make up 66% of NAR’s membership. Is it serving you?

NAR says an independent law firm dug into Brevard’s claims, writes Bernice Ross in her follow-up op-ed, but what does that entail, and did they take her deposition? Did they review all of the evidence?

Brevard’s complaint references three other women who allegedly have claims against Parcell. How can NAR decide to “vigorously defend” against this suit when the law firm they hired may have had only some of the facts? Shouldn’t NAR be digging deeper into these claims to discover what other evidence may exist against Parcell before spending members’ dues on a “vigorous defense?”

In her article, Ross outlines the workarounds women have found to combat systemic harassment and discrimination, explains why it’s so difficult for women to speak up, and offers a sampling of the outpouring of frustration women in real estate have expressed in recent days.

Is this really who we ‘R’? 

Seven years ago, writes Valerie Garcia, the real estate industry was rocked by another scandal involving bad behavior, harassment and intimidation on the part of prominent men in real estate leadership. The result? Crickets. The men involved are still powerful and prominent and the allegations all but forgotten.

“The risks are clear,” she writes. “If we stay silent, our words, our Codes, our very industry will eventually lose their meaning altogether.”

What kind of an impact will an hour of fair housing training have?

Of course, equity and inclusion are concerns on both sides of the transaction and both sides of the industry — among real estate professionals as well as between agents and clients.

We have ample proof that racism and discrimination are systemic to the real estate industry, but we don’t know how much power we have to create change. There is proof that both real estate agents and lenders have participated in redlining and steering. Both are the perfect topics for fair housing training. Requiring that training is a great way to acknowledge that there is a problem, but if it isn’t done correctly, it won’t have a positive impact.

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