CoStar Employees Claiming Surveillance of Work-From-Home Conduct

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Commercial real estate data giant CoStar Group has a mutiny on its hands as 29 former and current employees have accused the company of surveilling workers toiling away in the comfort of their own homes during the pandemic, leading to a mass exodus at the firm, Insider reported.

Managers and IT workers told Insider they were asked to keep tabs on how employees dress over video conferencing, whether or not they enabled their cameras and tried to determine whether or not employees were at their desks during work hours.

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Workers accused managers of humiliating employees over video calls and abruptly terminating them for seemingly minor infractions, Insider reported. Workers said that the abusive behavior led to a so-called “Great Resignation” where 37 percent of workers left the company in January 2021, according to Insider.

That amounts to 1,546 workers clearing out their desks in 2021, far exceeding the 638 in 2020 and 985 who did the same in 2019, according to data shared with Insider. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the real estate industry as a whole had a 33 percent turnover rate, meaning that 739,000 employees out of 2.3 million said sayonara.

The $26 billion company is not denying the allegations either, telling Insider that it is just how CoStar upholds company standards in the time of COVID-19.

“We will not apologize for these standards, nor will we compromise them to accommodate a vocal few who decide that this level of expectation is not for them,” a CoStar representative said in a statement to Insider. 

CoStar did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Commercial Observer.

Issues with abrasive behavior from higher-ups was always the baseline but it was kicked into high gear when the pandemic hit two years ago, the group of employees told Insider. For instance in May 2020, IT managers were told to make the rounds of 100 random calls to employees and make note of anyone who did not pick up after three attempts to reach them.

One former employee, Nate Peterson, 31, even went so far as to create a meme account on Instagram based on the alleged attitudes of executives at CoStar in December 2021. Since then, the page has attracted almost 1,100 followers and has over 200 posts.

While Peterson called the page a place where current and former employees can commiserate about experiences that were anything but “normal,” a CoStar representative brushed aside these claims to Insider, caling them “defamatory” and the product of a “disgruntled employee” with an “unhealthy obsession” with his former employer.

CoStar’s human resources department also demanded that Peterson turn over any evidence to back up his claims by Feb. 10 or it would continue to disregard the complaints.

CoStar also told Insider that its turnover was typical of any company during the Great Resignation, which NPR defines as a period when up to 33 million Americans willingly left their jobs in 2021, and is currently refilling its ranks.

Companies monitoring their employees’ work-from-home habits is hardly unique to CoStar Group, however, with toymaker Mattel coming under fire after a job listing required employees to comply with regular “visits” from managers and environments fitting the description of “closed-door work area with no distractions of background noise (i.e., pets, children, machinery, music or talking).” Mattel later dropped the clause after the uproar.

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.