LANSING, Mich.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--This past Thursday, three Black former PulteGroup employees secured legal representation by the highly reputable Zausmer Law Firm in order to pursue CEO Ryan Marshall and other named senior executives in a sweeping conspiracy to reward personal loyalty over merit and, in some specific cases, white employees over Black employees.
The case is being pursued under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in Michigan where PulteGroup was founded in 1950 and maintains its registered office. PulteGroup is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the “PHM” ticker symbol. PulteGroup is the third-largest homebuilder in the country.
“We have photographic evidence that’s never been made public. Ryan Marshall’s managers actually used a noose at a meeting with Black employees in an effort to create an unworkable environment. When they complained, they were written up and subsequently fired,” alleged lead counsel Mark Zausmer. “I’ve never seen anything so clear and egregious.”
Mr. Zausmer added, “Ryan Marshall, Todd Sheldon, Brandon Jones, Michelle Hairston and Patrick Witzigman all have some serious answering to do. I expect other whistleblowers and employees who have been discriminated against to step forward.”
PulteGroup’s Jim Zeumer, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications, told WLNS Channel 6: “Our company leadership is committed to ensuring an environment of inclusion where all people are respected and valued. What is depicted in the images is despicable and has no place in our company nor in our society. The allegations are not consistent with our values and corporate culture.”
While PulteGroup and Marshall recently created a “Diversity Board” and say they prize inclusion, the 22-page complaint outlines a very different story of the inner workings of Marshall’s management team. The lawsuit alleges that the “Diversity Board” is a “sham” and that managers engaged in “unlawful retaliation in the form of termination” when Black employees reported misconduct on the part of Patrick Witzigman, who is alleged to have acted as a lieutenant in the scheme and had racist interactions with all three Black plaintiffs. Witzigman’s conduct was given a pass or endorsement because he was a loyalist to COO Brandon Jones, who himself was recently terminated after the PulteGroup Board found wrongdoing and actions that violated their Code of Ethical Business Conduct (PDF).
Jones had received “fast-tracked” promotions and was personal friends with CEO Marshall, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint outlines a workplace conspiracy wherein the CEO had his executives, and managers who reported to them, filter out Black employees who spoke out about unlawful conduct perpetrated by their supervisors that did not align with PulteGroup’s public image, specifically, by the hands of Witzigman.
When the respective human resources and legal departments were used by employees, rather than punishing Witzigman for his unethical and unlawful behavior, they engaged in Marshall’s grand coverup and retaliated against Black employees.
Not once did the “Diversity Board” (led by Marshall) or the Ethics Committee (led by General Counsel Todd Sheldon) ever correct these civil rights violations because these entities were set up to fool shareholders, employees and the public.
Each of the three plaintiffs can demonstrate that they were treated with prejudice, that normal recourse for reporting discriminatory or predatory practices was not actually available to them, and that they were terminated or forced out by managers loyal to CEO Marshall or one of his top lieutenants.
Even more explosive, plaintiffs have provided the court with photographs of the “lynching noose” and made public, for the first time, what is internally referred to as the “Noose Meeting” at PulteGroup among employees. To see the images, click here and see pages 6-7.
Plaintiffs are considering additional legal remedies and invite all whistleblowers and those discriminated against by PulteGroup managers or executives to join their pursuit of equal treatment.
The legal filing can be accessed online here. Case No: 2023 – 0287 – CD