Tinder's co-founder is suspended after sexual harassment lawsuit

Justin Mateen, co-founder of the popular dating app, is removed from his job after allegations he condoned sexual harassment by other top brass.

Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

A co-founder of the popular dating app Tinder has been suspended after allegations he condoned sexual harassment.

Whitney Wolfe, one of Tinder's other co-founders and a vice president of marketing, said the company's chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, repeatedly called her disparaging names and harassed her, according to a lawsuit filed Monday. Wolfe also accused the company's management of allowing the behavior that ultimately forced her out of the company.

"Although it is tempting to describe the conduct of Tinder's senior executives as 'frat-like,' it was in fact much worse -- representing the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups," the lawsuit said.

IAC, a media brand company that owns Tinder, said in a statement that it has suspended Mateen pending an ongoing internal investigation.

"Through that process, it has become clear that Mr. Mateen sent private messages to Ms. Wolfe containing inappropriate content," an IAC spokesman said in a statement. Those messages aside, however, he said IAC believes Wolfe's allegations against Tinder's management are "unfounded."

The suit is the latest example of the struggles the tech industry has faced over women's issues. Other companies, including code company GitHub and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, have also faced allegations of poor treatment of women.

Further underscoring the struggles were recently released employee statistics from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, which indicated those companies' workforces were majority white and male, by wide margins. Twitter, for its part, didn't have a woman on its board until recently.

In her filing, Wolfe says she was called a "whore" in front of Sean Rad, Tinder's CEO. Mateen also allegedly told her that listing her as a co-founder made the company "seem like a joke." She is seeking a judgment of undefined damages, including "future lost earnings."

About the author

Ian Sherr is an executive editor for the west coast at CNET News. He writes about social networking and manages coverage of video games, Internet giants, cybersecurity, the sharing economy, e-commerce and wearable tech. Previously, he wrote about Apple, the PC industry and video games at The Wall Street Journal. He's also written for Reuters and the Agence France-Presse, among others. He's a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, though he knows what real weather feels like too.


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