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Labor & Employment Law

Tinder co-founder files sexual harassment suit against her former partners

Posted Jul 1, 2014 2:31 PM CDT
By Victor Li

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Love is not in the air behind the scenes at Tinder: One of the founders of the popular matchmaking app has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former partners, accusing them of creating a hostile work environment for the purpose of forcing her out.

Slate reported that Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former vice president of marketing, filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday against her former company, as well as sibling company Match.com and parent company IAC/InterActiveCorp. Wolfe, who says in her complaint that she was the driving force behind Tinder and was the one who convinced her partners to focus on developing the dating app when many of them wanted to abandon it, is requesting compensatory and punitive damages.

In her complaint (PDF) Wolfe alleged that she was constantly degraded and disrespected by her male co-founders and that they used a variety of misogynistic and racist words and phrases. Wolfe singled out Tinder’s chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, for his behavior, which included calling Wolfe a “whore” in front of Tinder CEO Sean Rad. Wolfe alleged she was stripped of her co-founder status by Mateen and others because she was a “girl” and they believed that having a young female co-founder made the company look like a “joke.” Wolfe, who was in a relationship with Mateen for some time, also alleged that Mateen tried to control her and keep other men away from her after their relationship ended. Wolfe finally quit earlier this year, and she alleged in her complaint that IAC executive Sam Yagan (who serves as CEO of Match.com) was indifferent to her when she talked about her treatment at Tinder. According to Wolfe, Yagan told her that he “can still sleep at night.”

“Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder’s senior executives as ‘frat-like,’ it was in fact much worse—representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups,” Wolfe’s attorneys at Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe wrote in the complaint.

According to Slate, an IAC executive said that Mateen has been suspended “pending an ongoing internal investigation.” However, IAC also said that it believed “that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”

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