By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Former Tinder marketing Vice President Whitney Wolfe is suing the popular dating-app company for sexual harassment and discrimination, making it the latest technology business to face challenges over its treatment of women.
Wolfe's lawsuit, filed Monday, listed a series of alleged incidents of harassment over roughly 18 months starting in late 2012. Among the allegations: that Chief Executive Officer 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.
IAC/InterActiveCorp <IACI.O> owns a majority stake in Los Angeles-based Tinder and is also a defendant, along with fellow dating site and IAC portfolio company Match.com.
A spokesman for IAC said that Mateen had been suspended pending an ongoing internal investigation, and called messages he sent Wolfe "inappropriate."
"We unequivocally condemn these messages," the spokesman said, "but believe that Ms. Wolfe’s allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded.”
Tinder and Match did not reply to emails requesting comment.
In the lawsuit, Wolfe says she came up with the name “Tinder” for the service in mid-2012, shortly after its creation, amid worries that its original name, Matchbox, was too similar to Match.com.
The lawsuit says Wolfe became romantically involved with Mateen, her boss, who joined the company in late 2012.
Although she was designated a co-founder in a November 2012 meeting, Mateen told her that having a “girl founder” devalued the company, according to the lawsuit. In November 2013, Mateen and Rad removed her co-founder title.
As her romance broke down, the suit says, Mateen called her “a desperate loser” in a marketing meeting and told Rad and others she was an alcoholic. He also sent her a series of harassing texts, it states. Wolfe complained to Rad, who would ignore her "or call her a dramatic or emotional girl,” the suit says, adding that in one meeting, Rad told her it was her job to “keep Justin calm.”
The lawsuit alleges that Wolfe resigned after Mateen called her a whore at a company party in April.
The allegations come as Silicon Valley draws fire for its female-unfriendly atmosphere, which activists say contributes to the low number of female technology executives and company founders. Some have dubbed the culture at many companies as one of the "brogrammer," meaning a partying male programmer.
The Tinder lawsuit was filed in Superior Court of the State of California, Los Angeles.
(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Ken Wills)