Whitney Wolfe, the former vice president of marketing for popular pseudo-dating app Tinder, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles-based company for sexual harrassment and discrimination. The incident, following complaints at Github will increase criticism of what some have described as a hostile atmosphere for women in Silicon Valley.
In the lawsuit, filed on Monday at the Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles, Wolfe lists complaints including that chief marketing officer Justin Mateen removed her title as co-founder because she was a “young female”, that Mateen publicly insulted her, repeatedly calling her a “whore”, and that Tinder CEO Sean Rad ignored her complaints. The suit describes a “frat-like” atmosphere at the company, with male executives commonly using racist and sexist terms.
IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns a majority stake in Tinder, is also named in the lawsuit, as is Match.com, a dating site that is also in IAC’s portfolio.
IAC said in a sttement that it has suspended Mateen pending an internal investigation, and said the investigation confirmed that Mateen had sent “private messages” to Wolfe that contained “inappropriate content”.
“We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded,” IAC stated.
Wolfe claims she came up with the name “Tinder” in order to better distinguish the company from Match.com, and was designated a co-founder in a November 2012 meeting. Mateen, who joined the company in late 2012, allegedly told her having a “girl founder” devalued the company, and the title was removed in November 2013.
The lawsuit describes a tumultuous environment at the start-up, with Wolfe carrying on a brief relationship with Mateen, who began to insult her in marketing meetings as the affair broke down, also sending her harassing text messages.
Rad allegedly ignored Wolfe’s comments or would “call her a dramatic or emotional girl”, in one meeting allegedly telling her it was her job to “keep Justin calm”.
The Silicon Valley IT industry, where women are a minority, has been hit by several high-profile accusations of gender discrimination in recent months, with Snapchat’s chief executive last month apologising for explicit emails sent to a Stanford University student, and GitHub earlier this year carrying out an internal investigation following harassment accusations by a female employee. That investigation found “evidence of mistakes and errors of judgment”, the company said.
In 2012 a female former partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers accused the company of gender harassment and discrimination, describing it as a boys’ club where success was impossible for women, accusations denied by the company.
Then-HP chief executive Mark Hurd quit the company in 2010 amid sexual harassment claims.
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