Co-Founder of Dating Application Sues Company for Sexual Harassment, Presents Text Messages from Manager in Support of Claim

Sparks_20060114_757.jpgA former vice president of the company that created Tinder, a popular mobile dating application, or “app,” has filed suit against the company for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, and other claims. Wolfe v. Tinder, Inc., et al, No. BC550105, complaint (Cal. Sup. Ct., Los Angeles Co., Jun. 30, 2014). The plaintiff was reportedly part of the team that developed the app. She became a vice president and was given credit as a co-founder. She claims in her lawsuit that she faced sexual harassment from a manager, with whom she was involved in a dating relationship for about a year, throughout her employment. She further alleges that the company revoked her co-founder title based solely on her gender.

The plaintiff was part of the team that developed Tinder at Hatch Labs, an “incubator” for technology startups in Los Angeles that was funded by the internet company IAC. She claims in her complaint that she steered the team away from Cardify, a “customer loyalty rewards app,” Wolfe, complaint at 3, towards a dating app. She suggested marketing the app at college campuses, and came up with the name Tinder. The plaintiff and four other individuals launched the Tinder app in October 2012, and the company was named the “Best New Startup of 2013” by TechCrunch. She became a vice president and was named as one of five co-founders of the company.

In February 2013, according to her complaint, the plaintiff began dating the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). She states that she began doing more media appearances on behalf of the company, and she alleges “gender-based inconsistencies in how the company presented itself.” Id. at 6. The company allegedly omitted her name as a co-founder in some publications, and she claims she was told that it was because she was a “girl,” and that having a female founder “makes the company look like it was an accident.” Id.

Her relationship with the CMO deteriorated through 2013, and she alleges that he became “verbally controlling and abusive.” Id. at 7. They gradually broke up, she claims, beginning in September 2013, and the CMO directed his anger over the breakup at her. In November 2013, she claims that the CMO and the CEO informed her that they were removing her as a co-founder. The CMO allegedly told her that including her as a co-founder “makes the company look like a joke,” and that “being a female co-founder of Tinder was ‘slutty’ because it is an app people use ‘to hook up.'” Id.

The plaintiff states that she ended her relationship with the CMO for good in December 2013, and that he then subjected her to even greater verbal abuse, both in person and in numerous text messages. The CEO, upon receiving the plaintiff’s complaints regarding the CMO’s behavior, allegedly told her that she would be fired if the two of them could not get along. Id. at 10. She resigned her position with the company in April 2014.

The lawsuit names Tinder and its parent companies, Match.com and IAC, as defendants. It asserts seven causes of action under California law, including sex discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and failure to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment. The complaint includes copies of multiple text messages allegedly sent by the CMO as exhibits.

The sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates represent the rights of workers in New York City and surrounding areas. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a knowledgeable advocate, please contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431.

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Photo credit: Georg Slickers [CC BY-SA 2.5, CC BY-SA 2.0, and CC BY-SA 1.0; GFDL; or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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