Tinder exec was sexually assaulted by CEO, fired for speaking out, suit alleges
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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tinder exec was sexually assaulted by CEO, fired for speaking out, suit alleges

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

Match Group and IAC/Interactive Corp. allegedly failed to properly investigate the sexual assault against the female senior exec, tried to cover it up, and then fired her in retaliation for speaking out.

A former Tinder senior executive has filed a lawsuit against the former CEO of Match Group and Tinder, as well as Match Group and IAC/Interactive Corp., alleging that the CEO sexually assaulted her and that the company covered it up and then wrongfully terminated her employment at the dating app for speaking out about the company and the incident. The plaintiff is not just your average executive—according to the complaint, she "has been credited as an integral part of Tinder’s success,"

Sexual assault. The plaintiff was physically and sexually assaulted by the CEO at Tinder’s holiday party at a hotel in Beverly Hills in December 2016, after he made aggressive sexual remarks to her earlier in the night, the complaint alleges. Trying to avoid his advances, the plaintiff alleges that she quickly distanced herself, found two colleagues, and went upstairs with them to one of their hotel rooms. The CEO nonetheless found her in the room and assaulted her in the presence of her colleagues, the plaintiff contends.

Inadequate investigations. The complaint alleges that the company never conducted a meaningful investigation of the assault, as required under company policies and California law. IAC and Match "failed to interview a key eyewitness and ignored damning facts, because they did not want to risk their bottom line," the complaint states.

Instead, the plaintiff "was marginalized, subject to additional harassing, offensive, and insulting behavior, put on administrative leave, publicly accused of consenting to her attacker’s advances, and finally, wrongfully terminated by Defendants," according to the complaint.

Cover-up. In about July 2017, a reporter began asking the plaintiff questions about rumors of sexual misconduct at Tinder by high-level Match Group executives. The plaintiff said that a few months later, she learned that the reporter was still investigating, and that the story was about her assault at the hands of the CEO. The plaintiff informed the CEO and the Chief HR Officer of the reporter’s inquiry, according to the complaint.

The CEO—the perpetrator—purportedly asked the plaintiff to talk with the reporter to explain the ways in which Tinder combats sexual harassment, and to throw the reporter off the story. The plaintiff allegedly refused to comply and instead referred the reporter to the Head of Communications at IAC.

Further, IAC and Match purportedly tried buy the plaintiff’s silence after the assault by offering her a higher salary and more stock options, conditioned on her signing a non-disclosure agreement, which she declined to do.

The company covered up the incident to protect the CEO because, at the time of the incident, he was managing the process for valuing Tinder, according to the complaint.

Retaliation. In an August 2018 lawsuit brought against Tinder’s founders, early employees of the company (including the plaintiff) accused the CEO of helping direct a fraudulent scheme to undervalue Tinder in order to steal billions of dollars from the early employees who built the company, including the plaintiff, ahead of its merger by Match. The plaintiff was allegedly placed on "leave" the next day. Her email account was immediately revoked, and her nameplate removed from her office door, the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Match and IAC used the 2018 lawsuit as an excuse to terminate the plaintiff in December 2018, without severance and stripping away millions of dollars in vested equity she had earned through years of service to Tinder. She alleged the parent company characterized the assault as "consensual cuddling" just months before firing the plaintiff in retaliation.

Claims. The eight-count complaint, filed on August 5 in Los Angeles Superior Court, raises claims of negligence, gender violence, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The suit seeks a jury trial, and compensatory and punitive damages.

"[The plaintiff] was a critical executive at Tinder and instrumental in the company’s phenomenal success," Grant & Eisenhofer director Elizabeth Graham, who represents the plaintiff, said in a release. "She had hoped that speaking out about the assault and its blowback would lead to positive change within the company and its leadership. Instead, Match and IAC launched a scorched-earth campaign against her. She has had time to reflect and to consider the impact these events have had on her—and her career—and realized that asserting her rights in court is the only way she will get justice."

Graham said the plaintiff "is bringing this action not only to right the personal wrong against her, but to stand with the many women in the tech industry and beyond who have been blamed and shamed into submission or silence."

Companies: Match Group and IAC/Interactive Corp.; Match Group, Inc.

News: LitigationNewsTrends Discrimination Discharge SexDiscrimination SexualHarassment StateLawClaims Retaliation

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