Ex-Tinder Executive Sues Company For Alleged Sexual Harassment
Whitney Wolfe, Tinder’s former VP of marketing, is suing the hookup/dating app for sexual harassment, alleging that the startup’s CMO, Justin Mateen, in particular subjected her to ongoing demeaning behavior. Wolfe’s lawsuit is startling in its detail, accusing Mateen of, among many other things, calling her a “whore” in front of Tinder CEO Sean Rad. She also claims that she was stripped of her co-founder title on the basis of her being a young woman. According to TMZ, Wolfe is suing both Tinder and media giant IAC, which owns a majority stake in the company. Let’s review some of Wolfe’s claims, shall we?
Apparently, Wolfe and Mateen had a brief relationship that went sour. The suit alleges:
Mr. Mateen instructed Ms. Wolfe to be “a good girl” and stay away from other men for a period of six months during which time he would evaluate her to determine whether she was “worthy” of being with him, or whether she was the “slut” that he considered her to be before she met him.
Then, the suit claims, Mateen lost it over a marketing opportunity Wolfe received that would have been good promotion for Tinder:
In or about January 2014, Ms. Wolfe was contacted by the Creative Director of an influential fashion and lifestyle blog. This Creative Director wanted to do a feature on Ms. Wolfe in her role as a young female co-founder of a very hot dating app startup. Ms. Wolfe immediately recognized the marketing potential of such a piece —- which would be read by large numbers of young, trend-setting women. Rather than welcoming the free publicity, Mr. Mateen became incensed and claimed that the Creative Director was “disrespecting him” by doing a feature on Ms. Wolfe (his ex-girlfriend) and not focusing on other women, including a female assistant, in the story. He said that the Creative Director wanted to have sex with Ms. Wolfe because of her co-founder title. He became so angry that he threatened to “fuck” the Creative Director’s wife, and said that he would “be a handyman for my backyard and will be on a leash.”
But wait, there’s racism too! The suit also says:
Mr. Mateen and Mr. Rad subjected Ms. Wolfe to a barrage of horrendously sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages, including describing one person as a “liberal lying desperate slut” and others as “middle age Muslim pigs” and referring, for example, to “fucking” the wife of a prominent blogger, and a text depicting IAC Chairman Barry Diller as a penis. Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder’s senior executives as “frat-like,” it was in fact much worse — representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups.
On being stripped of her co-founder title, the suit claims:
Mr. Mateen went on to say that he didn’t want boys trying to date Ms. Wolfe due to her co-founder status, and that being a female co-founder of Tinder was “slutty” because it is an app people use “to hook up.”
When Tinder-related articles appeared in more traditional business outlets, Wolfe’s name was often nowhere to be seen. When she would ask why only her name of the five founders was absent they would tell her “you’re a girl.” They stated that they couldn’t include her name in the business press, because it “makes the company look like it was an accident.”
Wolfe says she was ultimately canned from her job at Tinder in the aftermath of this harassment and abuse. Tinder nor any of its executives have responded to Wolfe’s claims, but IAC issued the following statement to USA Today yesterday:
“Immediately upon receipt of the allegations contained in Ms. Wolfe’s complaint, Mr. Mateen was suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation,” IAC said in an emailed statement. “Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content. We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”
Mmm hmm. Meanwhile, Valleywag has screenshots of multiple text message exchanges between Wolfe and Mateen and Wolfe and Rad that were submitted as evidence and back up at least some of her claims.