Most things are going brilliantly for Tinder these days, but one thing most certainly is not. Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former vice president of marketing, slapped the company with a sexual discrimination lawsuit at the end of June.
In the suit, Wolfe claims her former boss called her a “whore” at a company event in the presence of Tinder CEO Sean Rad and that she was stripped of her status as a Tinder co-founder. When she complained about her treatment to other executives, including Rad, she says they forced her out of the company.
The story goes back to 2013, when Wolfe and chief marketing officer Justin Mateen dated for several months. After they broke up, Wolfe claims Mateen sent her a series of inappropriate text messages and e-mails filled with racist and sexist language. When she complained to Rad and Match.com CEO Sam Yagan, they allegedly ignored her repeated complaints about his behaviour.
Wolfe also contends that Mateen told her she was not listed in Tinder’s press materials as a co-founder because having “a girl founder” who was just 24-years-old (at the time) would devalue the company. Later, after Mateen allegedly called her a “whore” in front of Rad and other co-workers, Wolfe says she offered to resign in exchange for “modest severance” and the vesting of her stock options. Instead, she claims, she was fired.
John Mullan, one of Wolfe’s attorneys, said in a statement that Wolfe “lost her job simply for refusing to take the abuse any longer.” Another one of her attorneys said “IAC and Match.com, which own Tinder, allowed this culture to exist and did nothing to prevent the discrimination or harassment. IAC and Match.com need to be held responsible for their failure to supervise the executives at Tinder. There really was no ‘adult in the room.’”
In response, IAC indefinitely suspended Mateen. “Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content,” the company said in a statement. “We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”
The story gets more complex when you try to determine who actually is a legitimate co-founder of Tinder. TechCrunch did an in-depth examination of the people involved in Tinder’s creation and it’s…convoluted, to say the least. It’s hard to see how they themselves can keep up with it all (and maybe they can't), much less anyone else.
Wolfe is seeking compensatory damages, including for lost pay and benefits, as well as punitive damages for emotional distress.