Chicago-based National Association of Realtors tolerates sexual harassment, alleged victims say

Former staffer tells Sun-Times of incidents involving forced physical contact at events the association organized. “Toxic culture” cited.

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Women Employed Executive Vice President Sharmili Majmudar (left) and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) join Jason Haber, founder of the NAR Accountability Project, stand outside the headquarters of the National Association of Realtors on Michigan Avenue.

Women Employed Executive Vice President Sharmili Majmudar, left, and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) join Jason Haber, founder of the NAR Accountability Project, to call for changes Monday at the headquarters of the National Association of Realtors.

Jim Vondruska for The Sun-Times

A group organized in response to reports of sexual harassment involving the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors called Monday for the resignation of its CEO and other changes that it said would protect its employees and members.

Realtor Jason Haber of Compass, who works in Florida and New York, said association leadership has allowed sexual harassment to go unpunished. He founded the NAR Accountability Project to press for reforms to what he called the association’s “toxic culture.”

At a news conference outside the association’s headquarters at 430 N. Michigan Ave., Haber called on CEO Bob Goldberg to resign, saying he sweeps complaints under the rug.

“They have a problem recognizing the issue,” Haber said.

Haber said his group has attracted 1,500 supporters, many with accounts of unwanted physical contact taking place at association-sponsored events. He said the incidents go beyond the behavior ascribed to former NAR President Kenny Parcell, who resigned in August after The New York Times interviewed people who said he forced physical contact on females and sent lewd photos and texts. Parcell denied the charges and called them character assassination.

“There’s no question he was a big part of it,” Haber said. “Our argument is he was a symptom of a larger disease.”

Haber also said the association should release former staff members from non-disclosure agreements that don’t involve trade secrets. He said it should create a third-party human resources reporting system and commission a sweeping investigation by a law firm with no prior ties to NAR.

The Sun-Times spoke with a former association staffer who said she is supporting Haber’s work. She described cases of unwanted physical contact at events and said her Chicago-based team, which worked in strategic business partnerships, was let go after it complained to association officers and had to sign non-disclosure agreements.

“They were pretending it was a realignment,” she said. “Every one of us has the word ‘retaliation’ on our lips.”

At an NAR convention, a vendor forcibly kissed several women, the source said, including members of her team. She said at an event in Naples, Florida, another man with business ties to the group grabbed a team member under her skirt, describing the victim as “completely panic-stricken.”

Haber said numerous people have contacted him about other incidents unconnected to Parcell, often involving vendors. He said that despite complaints registered with the association, it has not taken action.

NAR spokesperson Mantill Williams said, “We immediately investigate whenever someone makes an allegation.” He said the reform group has not contacted the association about specific incidents. Haber, however, said he notified the group’s executive board of complaints in an Aug. 31 email.

Williams said complaints, including sexual harassment, are likely to arise in an organization with 1.5 million members. “We always acknowledge there is more to be done,” he said.

Williams said in response to the allegations against Parcell, the group is evaluating how it picks volunteer leaders and has started a “culture transformation commission” to recommend changes.

He had no direct comment on the call for Goldberg to quit. The association’s latest publicly available tax filing from 2021 reports Goldberg made $2.5 million as CEO.

The group’s presidency, in contrast, is a rotating post. When Parcell resigned, it chose Idaho Realtor Tracy Kasper to succeed him ahead of her scheduled ascension to the presidency next year.

At the time, Kasper promised to “enhance the way we foster a welcoming, safe and respected workplace.”

Outside the headquarters of the National Association of Realtors at 430 N. Michigan Ave.

Headquarters of the National Association of Realtors, 430 N. Michigan Ave.

Jim Vondruska for The Sun-Times

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