BAM Key Details:
- National Association of REALTORS® president Kenny Parcell is being accused of sexual harassment, as detailed in a New York Times exposé on August 26th.
- The New York Times spoke with 29 current and former NAR employees about sexual harassment and discrimination claims.
- Many of these claims began to surface after Janelle Brevard, a former employee, filed—and then withdrew—a lawsuit for racial and sexual discrimination.
- NAR president Kenny Parcell announced his resignment on August 28th.
On August 28th, Parcell announced his resignation.
As the largest professional organization in the country and a non-profit organization with more than $1 billion in assets, NAR has 1.5 million members who pay dues. Those interviewed described years of harassment and discrimination, including internal complaints and claims that have been swept under the rug.
The Case that Exposed it All
Janelle Brevard, who served as NAR’s chief storyteller for two years, filed a lawsuit against NAR on June 27, 2023. The complaint included six counts of racial and sexual harassment, alleging that Brevard, who is Black, was fired after breaking off a sexual relationship with Parcell. Three other women, all white, also spoke with lawyers about Parcell’s actions, yet they remained on staff.
The suit was withdrawn nine days later, after Brevard and her lawyer reached an agreement with NAR on a severance package that included $107,000 and lawyer fees. A nondisclosure agreement was also signed. Bruce Fox, a lawyer who represented Brevard in the case, stated it was not a “separation agreement” as NAR described but that, “Feeling intimidated by such a powerful adversary, she agreed to promptly settle her case.”
Ever since the case was dismissed, The Times has been investigating. It found numerous women alleging the same thing: sexual harassment, discrimination and intimidation in the workplace at NAR.
Sexual Harassment Claims
In interviews conducted by The Times, 19 women who worked at or were active in NAR stated they faced sexual harassment on the job. Another 10 stated the culture was sexist. Of the complaints, 16 involved Parcell.
The article stated, “The Times also reviewed two lawsuits, a discrimination complaint and an internal memo sent to N.A.R.’s human resources department that all pointed to a yearslong pattern of harassment and retaliation at the organization.”
Jennifer Braun, NAR’s senior events producer, filed an internal report over a year ago to human resources. She said that at a 2018 conference, Parcell asked her to help him fix his shirt in a way that seemed sexually suggestive. Another time, he told Braun another male was masturbating in his room and made gestures of ejaculation toward her.
This is not the only instance when NAR was made aware of complaints. Last June, an executive sent a memo to a senior vice president. The executive had become aware of two employees who were invited by Parcell to spend the night in his Utah home. The employees were in town for the promotion of his presidential term. She also shared photographs that Parcell sent of his crotch, which to the women, seemed wildly inappropriate. Parcell claimed he was asking for feedback on the design of a promotional NAR belt buckle.
Another case involves Roshani Sheth, who was fired from her job as a product manager months after making a report of sexual harassment and discrimination to the human resources department. According to The Times, the report claimed male superiors “stared at her breasts, referred to her career ambition as ‘unattractive,’ and made inappropriate comments about her body and marital status.” She said that NAR cited “poor performance” for her termination in 2019.
In 2020, Sheth filed a charge that claimed both racial and sexual harassment with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which is not being examined. She stated that after filing, she received threatening texts from an unknown number saying she was a “rat” and should “kys” (shorthand for “kill yourself”).
Under the Rug
While both internal complaints and lawsuits have been filed, “Everything gets brushed under the rug,” Suzi Dunkel-Soto, Realtors, told The Times.
Dunkel-Soto reported that a male Realtor took a photo up her skirt during a graduation ceremony for a NAR leadership academy. After reporting the incident to NAR’s chief legal officer and leaving several messages, she said her calls were never returned. NAR stated the situation was “addressed appropriately.”
As far as the claims shared with The Times during interviews, Parcell issued a statement through his lawyer that the accusations were false. He stated, “I am a friendly and outgoing person in a world that is growing ever more cynical, conflicted, and cold. Well-intended actions on my part are being twisted and distorted.”
In an interview with The Times, NAR chief executive Bob Goldberg was asked if the organization has an issue with sexual harassment. “I would not characterize it as a problem,” Goldberg said.
Later, in an email through a NAR spokesperson, Goldberg stated, “We operate in a society where, unfortunately, inappropriate conduct can occur. Like any organization, we are not immune to these challenges, and any single allegation concerns me.”
NAR also issued a statement, which read, “We follow clear reporting procedures to investigate any issue of concern brought to our attention and take corrective action as needed, up to and including staff termination and member suspension.”
NAR mandates both sexual harassment and discrimination prevention training, as required by Illinois state law. Last summer, NAR’s human resources department released new protocols for conferences and gatherings. Guidelines included the following:
- “Should a member, colleague, vendor, or other attendee refer to an employee as ‘sweetheart’ or ‘honey’, the employee may inform that individual that they would prefer they use the employee’s name.”
- “Staff should avoid going to anyone’s hotel room.”
- “Physical contact with anyone is never required.”
Kenny Parcell Announces Resignation
It seems The Times article was too big—and created too much momentum with the industry—to be ignored. Today, Parcell shared his resignation with NAR, as first reported by RisMedia.
Parcell’s full resignation letter, which Inman reported was sent around 4 p.m. after an emergency meeting was called, is below:
Executive Committee and Board of Directors,
This letter serves as my resignation as President of the National Association of Realtors. Being elected to this position has been a highlight in my career.
My resignation comes after a series of accusations against me that are categorically false. I am deeply troubled by those looking to tarnish my character and mischaracterize my well-intended actions. During this experience, I’ve opened myself to listening and looking for ways to improve myself, but all I can do is tell the truth. I’ve been shocked by these false accusations, hurtful words, whispers, and character assassination.
Putting the organization and the Brand first comes with the title of President. Leadership is about making tough choices; this resignation signifies that I will put the organization’s needs first to move forward above my own personal needs to stay in this position. I truly appreciate the support and true friendships that I have made during my volunteering at NAR.
Questions Raised About the Culture at NAR
Even with the resignation of Parcell, it leaves the question of whether this will change the culture—or if it is too ingrained in the workplace.
Stephanie Quinn, the organization’s former director of business meetings and events for over 10 years, stated there is “this culture of fear.” Others, too, reported being scared or feeling intimidated to stay silent about harassment in the workplace. Many did not want to speak publicly for fear of losing leadership roles or business connections.
The Times reported that several former NAR leaders stated, “Keeping quiet, and even covering for those accused of wrongdoing, is a longstanding aspect of the culture.”
As the largest professional organization in the country, NAR carries significant influence in the real estate industry and beyond. The accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination against NAR president Kenny Parcell raise questions not only about the organization’s internal practices but also about its commitment to fostering a safe and respectful environment for all its members and employees.
The entire industry waits for answers to those questions—and the future of NAR.