Tinder may wish it could swipe left on this one. The popular dating app is facing a lawsuit from a former employee accusing company executives of sexual harassment, discrimination and defamation and forcing her out of the company she claims she helped to create.
Whitney Wolfe filed the suit against Tinder and its majority owners Match.com and IAC on Monday in Los Angeles.
At the crux of the complaint is Justin Mateen, Tinder’s chief marketing officer. Wolfe, who was a vice president of marketing, accuses him of subjecting her to “a barrage of horrendously sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages.’’
Mateen, recently named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30’’ along with Tinder CEO Sean Rad, has been suspended.
“Mr. Mateen was suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation,’’ an IAC spokesman told Boston.com. “Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content.’’
What kind of inappropriate content? According to the lawsuit (which you can read in full here), after Mateen and Wolfe’s romantic relationship went south, Mateen sent several texts to Wolfe asking about her personal life and threatening her and any man with whom he thought she might be involved. Phrases like “middle aged Muslim pigs,’’ “liberal lying desperate slut,’’ and “I will shit on him in life’’ were allegedly used.
“I would no longer tolerate the gender discrimination and harassment,’’ Wolfe said in a statement. “I had hoped this would be resolved confidentially, but after months of failed attempts, I have decided to pursue this suit.’’ She left the company in May.
Wolfe contends that Rad was aware of Mateen’s actions but did nothing to stop him, saying Wolfe would be fired if she couldn’t make things work. Both Match.com and IAC, the suit says, “completely abdicated any supervisory role over its Tinder employees.’’ IAC’s spokesman denies this, saying: “We unequivocally condemn [Mateen’s] messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.’’
Aside from the allegations against Mateen, Wolfe also accuses the company of revoking her co-founder title because the then-24-year-old was “a girl’’ who would make “the company look like a joke.’’ Facebook and Snapchat, Mateen allegedly said, “don’t have girl founders, it just makes it look like Tinder was some accident.’’ (Snapchat, incidentally, has its own problems with accusations of sexism, which has increasingly plagued the male-heavy tech startup industry.) In a February GQarticle about the company, Wolfe said of the company’s origins: “I was in a sorority, so I knew how to get into the brains of sorority girls … Justin knew how to get into the brains and the pants of sorority girls.’’
Tinder has become a hugely popular mobile app that allows users to see potential matches in their area, then reject (swipe left) or request to contact (swipe right) them. Mateen himself told the Huffington Post in December that the app was averaging 5 million matches every day. In that same interview, Mateen said that the app wasn’t just for casual sex, as “women aren’t wired that way, right?’’