Tinder is being sued for the sexual harassment and discrimination of a former marketing director who alleges that she was stripped of her title as co-founder and ultimately had to leave the company after being repeatedly subjected to abusive behavior. The suit focuses on the actions of Tinder's marketing chief, Justin Mateen, who allegedly began harassing marketing VP Whitney Wolfe, who filed the suit, after the two ended a relationship.
Mateen reportedly told Wolfe that he was removing her title because having a "24‐year-old girl" as a co-founder "devalues" the company and makes it "seem like a joke." He's also alleged to have sent Wolfe racist, sexist, and homophobic text messages, and referred to her in abusive ways, including calling her a "whore" in front of Tinder CEO Sean Rad.
Rad is also named as a defendant in the suit. Rad is said to have been unsympathetic to Wolfe's complaints about Mateen's behavior, dismissing her as "annoying" and "dramatic." He's also alleged to have threatened to fire Wolfe if she did not agree to being removed as a co-founder. Tinder owner IAC and Match.com, which Rad reports to, are also named in the suit. Wolfe is said to have brought her complaints to Match's CEO, who allegedly said that he did not feel compelled to intervene.
"The woman who invented Tinder."
Tinder has suspended Mateen in response to the lawsuit, pending an internal investigation. In a statement, it says that it has determined that Mateen sent "inappropriate" content to Wolfe. "We unequivocally condemn these messages," Tinder says, "but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded."
The lawsuit notes that Wolfe was once a prominent face at the company and that Harper's Bazaar has called her "the woman who invented Tinder." It also says that Wolfe came up with the app's name and posits that her initial marketing strategy of bringing Tinder around to college campuses was responsible for its quick growth.
"Whitney Wolfe ultimately lost her job simply for refusing to take the abuse any longer," says John Mullan, a partner at the firm representing Wolfe. "It is not only reprehensible that an alpha male culture characterized by obnoxious attitudes about women exists at a company which markets a dating app to young women, it is also illegal."
Wolfe's suit comes at a time when the technology industry has increasingly come under fire for unwelcoming and sexist behaviors. Over the spring, the widely used collaborative coding site GitHub was embroiled in a crisis after a high-profile developer left alleging that she had been subject to ongoing gender harassment.
Update, 9:40PM ET: TechCrunch has obtained what it claims is an internal memo from Sean Rad, in which the Tinder founder and CEO calls the communication between Wolfe and Mateen "just unacceptable" while questioning the former's legal complaint. We've reproduced it below.
I know it's been a difficult 24 hours for all of us...
I've learned a lot through this process and I wish I had done more in terms of managing what was clearly a complex situation. The communications between Justin and Whitney that have come to my attention through this process are just unacceptable. However, as many of you know, Whitney's legal complaint is full of factual inaccuracies and omissions. We did not discriminate against Whitney because of her age or gender, and her complaint paints an inaccurate picture of my actions and what went on here. We take gender equality very seriously and none of this reflects the Tinder and culture that we have worked so hard to create.
I truly appreciate your dedication.
Founder & CEO, Tinder