A female former executive at Tinder, the popular dating app, alleges in a lawsuit that two male superiors sexually harassed her through frightening text messages and disparaging comments, then later demoted her because of her gender.
Whitney Wolfe, 24, filed the sexual harassment and sex discrimination suit against Sean Rad, 28, and Justin Mateen, 28, in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday. Mateen and Rad, who have said they became friends during a math class at USC, were among several people involved in launching Tinder, a well-known Los Angeles start-up.
Tinder lets users rate photos of potential mates, and when two people greenlight each other, they can communicate through the app. More than 10 million matches are made each day, the two-year-old start-up said in June.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Wolfe said that Rad, the chief executive, and Mateen, the chief marketing officer, allowed Wolfe to label herself as co-founder where it appeared beneficial, including when she appeared in female-focused media reports.
In other cases, Rad and Mateen left Wolfe out of their co-founders' list and described her solely as vice president. According to Wolfe's lawsuit, Mateen explained that naming her as a young, female co-founder of a company otherwise built by several men "devalues" the firm and makes it seem like a "joke."
Wolfe and Mateen dated for a time, according to the lawsuit. As that relationship soured, she alleges, Mateen barraged her with "sexist, racist, and otherwise inappropriate comments, emails and text messages."
In some text messages allegedly sent by Mateen, he tries to exert control over Wolfe's social life, the lawsuit alleges.
Her frustration reached a breaking point at a company party in April, the suit states. There, Mateen, in Rad's presence, called Wolfe a "whore" and "a gold digger” according to the suit. He also called her “a disease” and “disgusting," the suit says.
Rad ignored Wolfe's pleas for help and then pressured her to resign, according to the lawsuit. After leaving, she raised concerns about her treatment to Sam Yagan, chief executive of Match.com, whose parent company IAC Inc. holds a majority stake in Tinder. Yagan also dismissed her claims.
IAC, named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said that Mateen has been suspended while Wolfe's claims are investigated. IAC confirmed that Mateen sent inappropriate messages to Wolfe.
"We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe's allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded," IAC said.
Mateen and Tinder didn't respond to requests to comment.
Wolfe is seeking damages, including lost wages and stock options, according to her attorneys David Lowe and John Mullan.
Jonathan Badeen, Chris Gulczynski and Joe Munoz are the others who have held the title of Tinder co-founder. None of the men is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.