Former Tinder co-founder and Vice President of Marketing Whitney Wolfe has filed is suing the dating-app company citing sexual harassment and discrimination. The company has joined a slew of technology companies who’ve come under scrutiny for their treatment of women.
Wolfe filed the suit Monday, listing a series of incidents of alleged harassment taking place over about 18 months beginning late 2012. The allegations assert that CEO Sean Rad and Justin Mateen, the chief marketing officer stripped her of her title as co-founder due to her gender, and that Mateen insulted her in public and called her a whore at a Tinder party. She also asserts that Rad disregarded her complaints. She is requesting compensatory damages, including lost pay, punitive damages and restitution.
IAC/InterActiveCorp, a majority stakeholder of the Los Angeles-based Tinder is a co-defendant, along with fellow dating site and IAC portfolio company Match.com. According to an IAC spokesman, the company suspended Mateen amid an current internal investigation. The spokesman also said the messages Mateen sent to Wolfe were inappropriate. "We unequivocally condemn these messages," he said, "but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”
Tinder and Match declined to comment on the matter.
Wolfe filed the 67-page complaint at the Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles. Court documents state that Wolfe says she had the idea to name the company “Tinder” in mid-2012, due to its original name, Matchbox, having to close a resemblance to Match.com.
The suit also says Wolfe began a romantic relationship with her boss, Mateen, who after he joined the company in late 2012. According to lawsuit, Wolfe was designated as a company co-founder in a November 2012 meeting, but soon after, Mateen told her that having a “girl founder” who lacked experience devalued the company. In November 2013, Mateen and Rad stripped her of the title. The lawsuit states that after Mateen called her a whore at an April company party, Wolfe resigned.
When the relationship began to dissolve, Wolfe’s suit asserts, Mateen called her “a desperate loser” during a meeting, said she was alcoholic to Rad and others and sent her a several of harassing texts. The suit also alleges that when she complained to Rad, he ignored her or called her a “dramatic or emotional girl,” and at one point he said it was her job to “keep Justin calm.”
The suit is filed amid criticism that Silicon Valley is a female-unfriendly environment, which activists believe contributes the disproportionate number of female company founders and technology executives. Many companies have earned the reputation of having a “brogrammer” or partying male programmer, culture.