Dating app Tinder has been hit with a sexual discrimination lawsuit filed by its former vice president of marketing.
Whitney Wolfe claims in a lawsuit filed Monday in Los Angeles that her former boss called her a “whore” at a company event in the presence of Tinder CEO Sean Rad, and that her status as a Tinder co-founder was downplayed by other executives. When she complained about her treatment to other executives, including Rad, she says she was forced out of the company.
The lawsuit also names as defendants Tinder parent companies Match.com and Barry Diller’s IAC. In the complaint, Wolfe claims she was told by her former boss, chief marketing officer Justin Mateen, that her name was not included among Tinder’s co-founders in press materials because having “a girl founder,” who was only 24-years old at the time, would devalue the company.
Wolfe also says that she and Mateen dated for several months in 2013 but, after the relationship ended, Wolfe claims Mateen began sending her a series of inappropriate text messages and e-mails containing sexist and racist language. Wolfe says Rad and Match.com CEO Sam Yagan repeatedly ignored her complaints about Mateen’s behavior and about the exclusion of her name from the list of the company’s cofounders.
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, Rad fired her.
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.”
“IAC and Match.com, which own Tinder, allowed this culture to exist and did nothing to prevent the discrimination or harassment,” said David Lowe, another of Wolfe’s attorneys. “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 said that it had suspended Mateen after receiving the allegations contained in Wolfe’s complaint pending an ongoing internal investigation.
“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.”
Wolfe is seeking compensatory damages, including for lost pay and benefits, as well as punitive damages for emotional distress. IAC reportedly paid $500 million for an additional 10% stake in Tinder in April, bringing its total holdings in the dating app company above 50%.
(Story was updated with a response from IAC.)