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Ex-Employees Sue UWM For Sexual Harassment, Discrimination

David Krechevsky
Jun 05, 2023
United Wholesale Mortgage headquarters

2 former underwriters filed claims related to lender's COVID-19 workplace policies.

Two former employees of United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) have filed separate lawsuits accusing the company of retaliation, sexual harassment, and other violations related to its handling of return-to-work policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plaintiffs, Jackson and Kassandra Memmer, also claim violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in their separate complaints. Jackson Memmer, a transgender man, claims he was terminated shortly after returning from paternity leave as a result of an internal investigation into appraisal clearing conditions. Kassandra Memmer claims she resigned due to health concerns after UWM denied her requests to work remotely during her pregnancy. Each lawsuit also includes a claim of sexual harassment.

The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan concerning Pontiac, Mich.-based UWM's implementation of health and safety protocols during the pandemic, and for failing to pay overtime. The company previously paid a $2.75 million settlement over claims that it failed to pay account executives overtime. 

The litigation follows a workplace complaint from another former employee that drew scrutiny from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The Memmers initially filed their complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which granted them the right to sue individually in January.

UWM has stated previously that the company does not comment on ongoing legal matters.

Both Memmers were hired as conventional mortgage loan underwriters in late 2019, though Kassandra was later promoted to senior underwriter. Kassandra states in her complaint that the Memmers purchased a home together in October 2020, for which UWM processed the loans. The lawsuit states that during the loan process, she became aware of the fact that her "significant other was transgender." 

Jackson Memmer states in his lawsuit that not only his wife discovered that he was transgender, but that several of his supervisors at UWM also became aware of that.

Both lawsuits also claim that each plaintiff experienced sexual harassment. 

Kassandra's lawsuit claims she was harassed by a male broker, who initiated contact with her after she sent work-related messages to him. According to the lawsuit, the broker sent emails expressing romantic interest, claiming that Kassandra was "too pretty to be an underwriter" and that he would recommend her as a company model to UWM's CEO, Mat Ishbia.

She states she reported the harassment to a supervisor, who she claims dismissed the matter, instructing her to "laugh about it and forget it." The complaint adds that the incident was never officially reported to the company.

Jackson Memmer, meanwhile, states in his lawsuit that he also was sexually harassed by a male broker. The lawsuit states that the "communication and conduct from the broker was unwelcomed," and that it was "intended to or in fact did substantially interfere with the plaintiff’s employment or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."

In May 2021, Kassandra informed UWM about her pregnancy and submitted a doctor's note outlining her need for a leave of absence to ensure the health of her unborn child. While her team lead approved the request, other supervisors rejected the doctor's note, claiming that UWM was not a "work from home company," the lawsuit states, 

In July 2021, UWM issued an ultimatum to all of its employees, mandating they return to the office; those who did not would be considered by the company to have resigned. Unable to work remotely, Kassandra chose to resign. The lawsuits claims she did not receive her final bonus for underwriting files completed in June.

Despite concerns over UWM's COVID-19 safety protocols, Jackson Memmer resumed work in July 2021, according to his complaint. However, after taking paternity leave on Nov. 13, 2021, he encountered two supervisors upon his return on Nov. 29. They informed him of an investigation into appraisal clearing conditions that had been conducted during his leave. On Dec. 2, 2021, Jackson claims, he was terminated in connection with the investigation and was denied a $5,000 bonus he had earned in November.

Both lawsuits against UWM allege the company's failure to pay minimum and overtime wages. Kassandra Memmer's lawsuit mentions working additional hours due to the firm's "Rise and Grind" mantra, under which employees were expected to either arrive early or stay late, without additional compensation.

Each lawsuit includes more than a dozen counts of accusing UWM of violating state and federal workplace laws.

According to court documents, Kassandra's complaint seeks $250,000 in damages, while Jackson's lawsuit requests $100,000. The claims brought against UWM in both cases include allegations of a hostile workplace environment and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In another labor-related case, the NLRB has charged UWM with violating its employees’ rights through “unlawful” employment agreements. The charge stems from a complaint filed in NLRB Region 7 in Detroit in June 2022 by Christopher Dennis, who was employed as a senior underwriter for UWM from early 2021 through early 2022.

UWM has said in a response filed with the NLRB that it believes the complaint is "without merit."

A hearing on the complaint, to be conducted by an NLRB administrative law judge, has been set for 10 a.m. on July 25 in Detroit.

Jun 05, 2023
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