Date: March 21, 2022

TELG principal Nick Woodfield spoke with Inman about red flags that real estate agents may encounter with their brokers and managers. Nick's suggestions take into account the legal protections available to both employees and independent contractors.

“An independent brokerage is still subject to EEOC. Just treating you like a jerk is not illegal, but action against a protected class is illegal.”

Nicholas Woodfield

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Bad bosses? 5 rotten apple red flags and what to do next

Whether you’re a brand new agent or an agent who has just signed on with a new brokerage, you’re probably looking to your leadership for a host of benefits, including professional development, additional training, lead generation opportunities and more. However, all brokerages are not created equal — some brokers and leadership teams may be more of a hindrance than a help to your professional growth.


We reached out for some insights on your legal and ethical options when it comes to bad leadership along with common sense solutions for the more everyday challenges you may face. Keep in mind, you may incur liability if you are aware of violations and don’t report them. Make sure that you have a trusted legal adviser so that you can ensure that you’re always on the right side of these issues.


Discriminatory leadership

Different states have different rules when it comes to the treatment of independent contractors and employees, according to Nicholas Woodfield, a principal at The Employment Law Group, P.C., located in Washington, D.C.

The line between abusive behavior and actionable, discriminatory behavior comes down to whom it’s aimed at and how it’s targeted.

Example: Your broker lets you know that you, a female agent, will be getting a few extra leads this month since the men in your office have been closing so many deals lately. After all, the ladies have to stick together, right?

A manager can dislike someone for talking too much about their favorite TV show or talking too much in general. A manager may then be rude to or harass an employee or contractor based on personal dislike.

“If you’re a jerk, it’s bad management, but you have to have a protected class for discrimination or harassment to be illegal,” Woodfield said.

Woodfield suggests a number of recourses for those who believe they are being discriminated against or for those who are seeking to advocate for others in their brokerage who are experiencing discriminatory behavior:

  • If your brokerage is part of a larger corporate entity, complain to the corporate head office. That way, limitations within the state won’t impact your ability to report discriminatory behavior.
  • If your brokerage company is publicly traded, you can complain to the company’s general counsel and say, “I am an agent and there is systemic discrimination here. I looked at the firm’s public postings that say we are an equal opportunity employer. If shareholders knew about this, they would think they were being defrauded.” Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, publicly traded companies must meet certain obligations. This provides added motivation for the corporate office to get a handle on the local brokerage.
  • Harness the power of public opinion through Yelp or Glassdoor. “Companies are very sensitive to how they’re perceived and to things blowing up out of control,” Woodfield said.

  • Don’t work for a franchise? “An independent brokerage is still subject to EEOC,” Woodfield said. “Just treating you like a jerk is not illegal, but action against a protected class is illegal.”

» View on Inman (Site requires paid subscription.)