Tinder reaches settlement in former marketing executive’s sexual harassment lawsuit
By Edwin Chan
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A former executive who accused popular dating-app company Tinder of sexual harassment and discrimination has settled her lawsuit with the startup, ending a dispute that cast a spotlight over the treatment of women in the technology industry.
Lawyers for the plaintiff, former marketing vice president Whitney Wolfe, said on Monday the lawsuit had been resolved but did not provide details.
IAC/InterActiveCorp owns a majority stake in Los Angeles-based Tinder and was also named as a defendant, along with fellow dating site and IAC portfolio company Match.com.
Wolfe’s lawsuit, filed in June, had listed a series of alleged incidents of harassment over roughly 18 months starting in late 2012. Among the allegations was that Chief Executive Officer Sean Rad and the company’s chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, removed her title as co-founder because of her gender.
The lawsuit also said Mateen publicly insulted her, including calling her a whore at a company party, while Rad ignored her complaints.
“Whitney’s lawsuit against Tinder has been resolved without admission of wrongdoing,” John Mullan, a partner at Rudy Exelrod Zieff & Lowe LLP, said in a statement. “She is proud of the work she did as a co-founder of Tinder, which contributed so much to the growth of the app. She is now going to focus her energy and talents on some exciting new projects.”
The allegations came as Silicon Valley continues to draw fire for perpetuating a culture unfriendly to women, which activists say contributes to the persistently low number of female technology executives and entrepreneurs.
Mateen was suspended after the lawsuit emerged. Several blogs, including BuzzFeed, reported on Monday he was no longer with the company. Mateen, Rad and IAC were not immediately available for comment, though the company has previously publicly denied the allegations against Tinder and its management.
In the lawsuit, Wolfe says she came up with the name “Tinder” for the service in mid-2012, shortly after its creation, amid worries that its original name, Matchbox, was too similar to Match.com.
The lawsuit says Wolfe became romantically involved with Mateen, her boss, who joined the company in late 2012.
Although she was designated a co-founder in a November 2012 meeting, Mateen told her that having a “girl founder” devalued the company, according to the lawsuit. In November 2013, Mateen and Rad removed her co-founder title.
As her romance broke down, the suit says, Mateen called her “a desperate loser” in a marketing meeting and told Rad and others she was an alcoholic. He also sent her a series of harassing texts, it states.
Wolfe complained to Rad, who would ignore her “or call her a dramatic or emotional girl,” the suit says, adding that in one meeting, Rad told her it was her job to “keep Justin calm.”
(Reporting by San Francisco newsroom; Editing by Diane Craft)
[Image via Tinder official Facebook page]