Tinder CEO Calls Discrimination Complaint Inaccurate in Staff Email
Tinder CEO Sean Rad has spoken out about the sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit brought against the company by former vp marketing Whitney Wolfe, calling her complaint inaccurate.
Rad sent an email to staff on Tuesday night addressing Wolfe's lawsuit against the startup, which alleges that co-founder and chief marketing officer Justin Mateen — with whom Wolfe had an on-and-off romantic relationship — called her a "whore" and was instrumental in removing her co-founder title because a young female in that role "makes the company seem like a joke." She also alleges that many of these remarks were made in front of Rad, who ignored her complaints.
A company spokeswoman sent THR the email as Tinder's official statement on the lawsuit. In it, Rad says: "I've learned a lot through this process and I wish I had done more in terms of managing what was clearly a complex situation. The communications between Justin and Whitney that have come to my attention through this process are just unacceptable."
But he denies that the company discriminated against Wolfe because of her gender.
"Whitney's legal complaint is full of factual inaccuracies and omissions," he continues. "We didn't discriminate against Whitney because of her age or gender, and her complaint paints an inaccurate picture of my actions and what went on here. We take gender equality very seriously and none of this reflects the Tinder culture that we have worked so hard to create."
Tinder majority owner IAC, which also was named in the suit along with portfolio company Match.com, responded to the lawsuit on Tuesday with the suspension of Mateen and issued a statement saying: "We unequivocally condemn these messages, but believe that Ms. Wolfe's allegations with respect to Tinder and its management are unfounded."
Wolfe began working at Tinder in 2012 when it was part of the IAC-funded incubator Hatch Labs. According to the lawsuit, she was given the co-founder title in November of that year, but was demoted from the position — which usually comes with a higher equity stake in a company — a year later. Rad forced her to resign in April of this year and rejected her request of a severance and vesting of her stock options.
The suit also describes a romantic relationship between Wolfe and Mateen that began in 2013. Wolfe alleges that after the on-and-off relationship ended in December that year, Mateen became verbally abusive, at one point calling her "a desperate loser" during a marketing meeting. She complained to Rad in a text message, but he did not respond.