Multiple Tinder employees who sued the dating app’s parent company, Match Group, for $2 billion were fired this week, a source close to the employees tells The Verge. Among them is Rosette Pambakian, VP of marketing and communications, who, in the original lawsuit, claimed that former Tinder CEO Greg Blatt sexually assaulted her. Match spokeswoman Justine Sacco wouldn’t confirm the names of the employees affected, but did say a “number” of employees, including Pambakian, were let go because they were “unable to fulfill their job responsibilities.”
The company initially placed these employees on administrative leave in August, which meant they weren’t allowed to work, but continued being paid. Since being fired, Pambakian sent an email to Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg and Tinder CEO Elie Seidman, saying she was subjected to “ongoing intimidation and retaliation” designed to “pressure [her] into resigning.” The Verge received a copy of this email from a source close to Pambakian, which we’ve published at the bottom of this article.
The email also says the firing had to do with Pambakian’s sexual harassment claims against Blatt and that she was never interviewed about those claims. She writes, “You told the world that a sham investigation (in which I was never even interviewed) determined the assault was some sort of ‘consensual cuddling’—as if there could by anything consensual about a CEO groping his subordinate in front of other employees after making sexually explicit comments throughout the evening of a company holiday party.” She also claims that Match fired her a day before her options vested. She mentions an arbitration agreement, which forced her to withdraw from Tinder co-founder Sean Rad’s lawsuit, and that she “refused to sign a non-disparagement agreement presented to me by HR, which would have prevented me from speaking publicly about my experience in exchange for compensation.”
Ginsberg responded to Pambakian’s email in her own email, which we’ve also published below. In it, she rejects Pambakian’s retaliation allegations and reiterates that the company investigated Blatt and prior sexual harassment claims. Pambakian, she says, never filed a sexual harassment claim in the first place. “I was not the CEO at the time, but I know you were interviewed on at least two separate occasions and you never alleged sexual harassment,” she writes.
She goes on to say that Pambakian’s options “have already been accelerated, and should be exercisable in your account, along with the other equity awards that have vested since August,” and says that the arbitration agreement is standard and “there is no NDA in them and we never tried to force you to sign a non-disparagement agreement. You’re free to talk about anything publicly that you’d like.”
Much of this correspondence has already played out in public. Match responded to Pambakian’s sexual harassment allegations in the lawsuit around the time of filing and said it “conducted a careful and thorough investigation under the direction of independent Board members, concluded, among other things, that there was no violation of law or company policy, and took appropriate action.”
The lawsuit itself centers on the allegation that Match purposely undervalued Tinder in an effort to avoid paying lots of cash to the original team, but it’s unclear what involvement Pambakian will have going forward as she had to withdraw.
Six years ago I wrote the very first press release for Tinder. Since then, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this company and helped grow it into a global phenomenon and top-grossing app. I was the youngest and longest-standing female executive at the company. I love Tinder. And I love my colleagues. But you have now fired me from a company I was so proud to build in blatant retaliation for joining a group of colleagues and Tinder’s original founding members in a lawsuit against Match and IAC, standing up for our rights, calling out the company’s CEO Greg for sexual misconduct, and confronting the company about covering up what happened to me.
While I truly hoped that decency and professionalism would prevail and that you would let me return to work, I knew that was probably unlikely when I was placed on leave the very day the lawsuit was filed and you continued to defend the actions of the executive that I spoke out against. Rather than acknowledge the truth and condemn his actions, you chalked it up it to “bad judgment.” To make matters worse, you told the world that a sham investigation (in which I was never even interviewed) determined the assault was some sort of “consensual cuddling”—as if there could by anything consensual about a CEO groping his subordinate in front of other employees after making sexually explicit comments throughout the evening of a company holiday party. No company that has faced allegations like this has gone to such lengths to protect one of its own – it’s truly despicable.
Since being placed on leave, I’ve been subjected to ongoing intimidation and retaliation clearly designed to pressure me into resigning—from immediately removing my name from my office and converting it into a conference room, to trying to coerce me into turning over my private and personal data on my phone. Though I can think of no other company that has actually fired the woman who made sexual assault allegations against an executive—the company’s actions here, including firing me just one day before my remaining options vest, are totally consistent with the way you have circled the wagons around him from day one.
Was the board aware that the company would publicly blame the victim?
When I refused to sign a non-disparagement agreement presented to me by HR, which would have prevented me from speaking publicly about my experience in exchange for compensation, Match snuck an arbitration clause into its employees’ most recent compliance acknowledgements, causing me, Jonathan, James and Josh to have to withdraw from the lawsuit. Know that my former Tinder colleagues and I still vigorously support that lawsuit — IAC and Match cheated us out of what we were promised and rightfully earned in exchange for building Tinder into Barry Diller’s most valuable business. As the lawsuit progresses the evidence will emerge and the world will see how IAC and Match plotted against their employees and rewarded misconduct.
I never imagined that I’d be pushed out of my company for standing up for what is right. But if that is the cost of being on the right side of history, I’ll pay it. As a woman CEO, I truly hope that you reconsider the safety of your remaining female workforce and allow Tinder and other Match owned companies to follow in the footsteps of Uber, Facebook and Google in eliminating forced arbitration for sexual misconduct claims. We deserve better.
I’m glad you reached out to me directly and I would like to take this opportunity to clarify a few points, because there seems to be a very real disconnect here that I truly want to fix.
You were not terminated because you reported Greg for sexual harassment. You couldn’t have been, as you never reported Greg for sexual harassment. When Sean Rad brought the subject up nearly five months later, right after the valuation process commenced, it was immediately and thoroughly investigated by the Board, independently without any involvement from Greg, which concluded that no sexual harassment occurred. I was not the CEO at the time, but I know that you were interviewed on at least two separate occasions and you never alleged sexual harassment.
On the topic of sexual harassment at Tinder, you know how seriously reports are taken. You yourself reported two other male colleagues, whom Sean Rad hired, and they were very quickly dismissed. Clearly, it was taken very seriously given the company terminated those individuals. More importantly though, Greg is no longer here. I am. And I promise you, we do not retaliate against anyone who reports sexual harassment. Your position was never at risk due to any sexual harassment complaints. I wanted to find a way to keep you employed at Tinder.
As explained in the letter we sent you, you were terminated because it was not possible for you to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of your role as Tinder’s spokesperson for a number of reasons, including your public position against the company over a valuation process. We also recently asked you to come to the office for a meeting with the HR department to discuss work-related activities and policies and were told that we can only contact you through your attorneys. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for you to do your work at Tinder if all communications related to your job have to go through your lawyers. As it relates to your personal information, any suggestion that we have been trying to access it is just not true. Like any company, we’ve asked for you, and all other employees involved, to return company laptops, phones and other devices to us. And unfortunately, we couldn’t retrieve a number of company devices from you and the others since you claimed that they were coincidentally all lost or damaged just before you decided to sue the company.
There are two last points I want to make: on the point about your equity, those options have already been accelerated, and should be exercisable in your account, along with the other equity awards that have vested since August. However, on the arbitration agreements, there is no NDA in them and we never tried to force you to sign a non-disparagement agreement. You’re free to talk about anything publicly that you’d like. You have already done so and that’s your prerogative. But the arbitration agreement is attached again. As you already know from when you signed it, it’s clearly labeled “Agreement to Arbitrate.”
I am a strong female advocate and have said to the women in the organization that as a female CEO in charge, I have zero tolerance for bad behavior and I am very much invested in every single employee’s success. If you’d like to discuss any of the above, or have a productive dialogue, I am here and will make myself available for an in person meeting. Just let me know.