A Michigan Realtor fired last year for a racially insensitive social media post and the subject of a lawsuit alleging he violated the Fair Housing Act is suing the broker and brokerage that fired him.
Rick Beaudin, an agent for KW Realty Livingston, was fired by RE/MAX Platinum in June after, in response to a protest planned in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, he posted to a local Pinckney, Michigan, group Facebook page “Can’t we all just promote in Pinckney that All Lives Matter?” Beaudin had been an agent at the brokerage since 1999.
RE/MAX Platinum owner Joe DeKroub told WHMI at the time that his real estate company “cannot be perceived as having bias in any manner or that we don’t fully support fair housing.” The termination occurred before the National Association of Realtors passed controversial changes to its professional standards in November to crack down on racist and discriminatory speech and behavior.
BLM supporters say the phrase All Lives Matter ignores the lived experiences of Black people who are disproportionately impacted by police brutality and who feel their lives are not treated as if they matter. In a press release, Beaudin’s counsel, Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, said “‘All Lives Matter’ is meant as a unifying term that promotes racial equality.'”
The Thomas More Law Center is a nonprofit whose mission is to “Preserve America’s Judeo-Christian heritage; Defend the religious freedom of Christians; Restore time-honored moral and family values; Protect the sanctity of human life; Promote a strong national defense and a free and sovereign United States of America.” The firm does not charge for its legal services.
The release also contains several statements alleging BLM is Marxist, anti-Semitic, anti-American and “seeks to incite race wars, chaos, and mob violence.” Fact-checking website PolitiFact has debunked such claims.
In January, an interracial couple filed suit against Beaudin and another agent, Mary Kay Ikens with RE/MAX Platinum, for allegedly discriminating against them on the basis of race and violating their civil and property rights when they attempted to make an offer on a home on Michigan’s Zukey Lake. That suit is ongoing.
In a Feb. 17 complaint, Beaudin alleges, without stating any evidence, that an “unknown BLM representative” pressured RE/MAX of Michigan, which manages RE/MAX franchises in the region, to have RE/MAX Platinum fire him. The complaint lists “Black Lives Matter Unknown Associate” as a defendant along with RE/MAX of Michigan, RE/MAX Platinum and DeKroub. The release alleges DeKroub fired Beaudin because he feared “possible retaliation from BLM mobs and boycotts.”
“Black Lives Matter (‘BLM’) is a decentralized organization formed to combat alleged system racial discrimination by members of law enforcement; one means by which BLM does this is to financially destroy (‘cancel’) individuals or entities that disagree with its mission or methods; that is what occurred in this case; an unknown representative of BLM (and perhaps BLM) will be named as a defendant after Plaintiff discovers his/her identity through discovery from defendants,” the complaint says.
According to the lawsuit, Jennie Steudle, RE/MAX Platinum’s general manager, emailed Beaudin a screenshot of the alleged BLM complaint sent to Michel Metzner, who owns RE/MAX of Michigan. But it appears that the screenshot did not include the name or contact information of the complainant, thus rendering the identity of the complainant — as well as any possible association to BLM or any other entity — unknown. The screenshot itself does not mention BLM.
Inman asked Beaudin’s attorney, Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, how Beaudin knows the complainant was an associate of BLM. Thompson declined to comment, noting that his firm would be conducting discovery in the case before commenting on the details of “out of state” BLM involvement. Asked how he knew the involvement was out of state, Thompson again declined to comment, citing pending discovery.
Beaudin declined to comment for this story, but in a statement to Inman, Thompson emphasized Beaudin’s role as a community leader.
“Prior to firing him, DeKroub often touted Mr. Beaudin as one of the biggest promoters of RE/MAX,” Thompson said via email. “Beaudin’s community involvement and volunteerism is legendary [in] Pinckney, and has been recognized by the local newspapers. In 2019 Beaudin was named as the People’s Choice for the Best Realtor in his area.
“For RE/MAX, loyalty was a one-way street. Beaudin was thrown under the bus when his boss wrongly feared that BLM could harm his business. The Thomas More Law Center has been hearing from other Realtors that they have been summarily fired because of their exercise of free speech from their personal Facebook accounts. They are easy targets for BLM and the cancel culture.”
“Cancel culture” refers to withdrawing support from individuals or companies after they have said or done something objectionable or offensive in order to hold them accountable. Asked whether his firm will be representing any of the other Realtors he was referring to, Thompson said, “Not yet — much depends on the contractual relationship they had. Some may be ‘at will’ and others independent contractors. In Rick’s case the contract with RE/MAX indicated he could only be terminated for cause.”
The contract, included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, states under “RE/MAX LLC’s Required Provisions” that the broker may terminate Beaudin’s independent contractor agreement “immediately and without prior notice” if Beaudin “commits a material breach” of the agreement. The contract also states that it “can be terminated by either party at any time” and that the “Independent Contractor agrees to conduct business so as to maintain and increase the good will and reputation of Broker.”
As part of an agreement for internet access provided by RE/MAX Platinum, Beaudin also agreed to comply with guidelines that stated, “Internet access will not be used to transmit or display any defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, racially offensive or religiously offensive material.” That agreement stated the guidelines were “Zero Tolerance” and Beaudin agreed that violating the guidelines would result in his termination.
Beaudin also signed RE/MAX Platinum’s policy against harassment and discrimination, whose discipline could include “discharge from association or employment.”
The complaint, which seeks more than $1 million in damages and redress, alleges breach of contract against RE/MAX Platinum, tortious interference with contract and interference with business relationship or expectancy against the alleged BLM representative, RE/MAX of Michigan and DeKroub, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the alleged BLM representative, whose conduct the complaint described as “extreme and outrageous.”
RE/MAX Platinum, Steudle and Metzner did not respond to emailed requests for comment. Inman will update this story if and when we hear back.
Read the complaint: