Now Tinder's co-founder has been accused of sexual harassment

CMO Justin Mateen has been suspended after Whitney Wolfe claims she was demoted from 'co-founder' status for being a 'girl' and suffered 'atrocious' discrimination.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 21 Sep 2015

‘The founders of a red-hot technology startup named Tinder engaged in atrocious  sexual harassment and sex discrimination against Whitney Wolfe, the young woman who co-founded Tinder.’

That is the positively incendiary opening to a lawsuit against the addictive dating app, filed in Los Angeles yesterday. It accuses chief marketing officer Justin Mateen of harassing Wolfe and calling her a ‘whore’ in front of chief exec Sean Rad and claims the two men demoted her from ‘co-founder’ status for being a 24-year-old ‘girl’.

The suit presents Wolfe as a driving force behind Tinder, coming up with its name, leading its marketing drive and giving interviews to magazines including Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar as the face of the brand. The other co-founders (the original top-heavy total was six) excluded her name from business media, though, allegedly telling her it ‘makes the company look like it was an accident’.

Wolfe’s title was then taken away at the end of 2013, around the time her relationship with Mateen (who joined the company after her) broke down. Screenshots of a barrage of controlling, abusive texts he sent her are included in the suit. It also claims Rad ignored Wolfe’s complaints and then fired her when she offered to resign in exchange for ‘modest severance’ and vesting her shares.

Tinder said it ‘unequivocally’ condemned the ‘inappropriate’ messages and had suspended Mateen while it investigated. The company did say it ‘believe[s] that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded’, but then of course it would.

Tech has a not-unfair reputation of being male-dominated. But, as the firing of American Apparel founder Dov Charney shows, it’s not just geeks who have been accused of harassing female colleagues. Even so, it might shock some that a young startup like Tinder has strayed into old-fashioned misogyny. Then again, when it lets you judge people’s photos with a yes/no swipe, maybe the allegations of sexism aren’t all that surprising.

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