Tinder exec’s sexual harassment lawsuit fuels Silicon Valley’s gender inequality fire

Whitney Wolfe’s lawsuit against former coworkers spotlights the continuous problem of aggression towards women in tech-based fields

The technology industry in the U.S. — particularly the realm of Silicon Valley — has not fared well when it comes to the general opinion of its treatment of women. Vast studies and reports from individual tech giants including Facebook and Google have sparked conversations about why and how to remedy the lack of equality between men and women in tech. The latest in such human rights arguments stems from a hot button dating website called Tinder, and broaches the equality question, extending it into mistreatment of employees.

Former Tinder marketing vice president Whitney Wolfe is suing the popular dating-app company for sexual harassment and discrimination. Filed June 30, Wolfe’s lawsuit alleges that incidents of harassment occurred over a rough period of 18 months beginning in late 2012. She alleges that CEO Sean Rad and the company's chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, removed her title as co-founder because of her gender, and that Mateen publicly insulted her, including calling her a whore at a company party, while Rad ignored her complaints.

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Tinder’s parent company IAC has stated: “Immediately upon receipt of the allegations contained in Ms. Wolfe’s complaint, Mr. Mateen was suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation. 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.” 

Complications arise considering the suit as Wolfe and Mateen formed a romantic relationship after he joined the company in 2012. Wolfe claims that he — among other acts — committed sexual harassment in the form of a series of text messages. Resigning after Mateen’s “whore” comment at a company party, Wolfe has chosen to bring forth this case, which adds to the slew of cases standing against Silicon Valley’s executives who have allegedly maligned women on their staffs.

 

Reuters notes a few of the cases cited examples of Mateen’s and Rad’s behavior, one of which preceded Wolfe’s removal of title in November 2013. She was designated a co-founder in a November 2012 meeting, despite Mateen having told her that having a “girl founder” devalued the company, according to the lawsuit.

Contributing Author

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Juliana Kenny

Juliana Kenny is a contributor to InsideCounsel.com, covering a range of topics including patent litigation, conflict mineral laws, executive compensation, and antitrust regulation. Juliana earned B.A.s...

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