Former Tinder exec sues over sexual assault, wrongful termination

Tinder's former head of communications, Rosette Pambakian, alleges its former CEO groped her.
Tinder’s former head of communications, Rosette Pambakian, alleges its former CEO groped her.
Image: PHOTOTHEK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Rosette Pambakian won’t back down. 

The former Tinder executive filed a sexual assault and workplace retaliation lawsuit against the dating app’s parent companies on Monday. The filing comes roughly a year after the alleged groping was described in a separate lawsuit that claimed Match Group and IAC Interactive cheated Tinder founders, including Pambakian, out of billions of dollars.

While Pambakian’s assault was used as an example of mismanagement in the previous lawsuit, this time it’s front and center. Pambakian, who was head of Tinder’s communications at the time, says in court documents that former Tinder and Match CEO Gregory Blatt groped her breasts and thighs and kissed her shoulders, neck, and chest without consent after a 2016 holiday party. Earlier in the evening, he allegedly told her, “I get hard every time I look at you.” 

“This is directly related to her sexual assault and holding the companies responsible for the coverup and retaliatory wrongful termination of Ms. Pambakian,” said Paige Alderson, an associate at the law firm handling her case, Grant & Eisenhower. Pambakian, and others who sued Match over its financial valuation, was fired in December. Pambakian claims she was terminated because she spoke up about her assault. 

Blatt is also being sued — not just the companies.

Rosette Pambakian

Rosette Pambakian

Image: Grant & Eisenhower

But there’s a wrinkle to this new lawsuit: Pambakian had to leave the earlier financial one, which is still working its way through the court system, because of an arbitration clause in her Tinder contract. That clause forces her to deal with legal complaints against Tinder in secret outside the court system. Her legal team is leaving the arbitration issue up to the judge to decide.

Arbitration has become an important battleground during the MeToo movement, as it limits sexual assault victims from sharing their stories. Last year, Google, Facebook, and Slack all ended the practice for sexual misconduct complaints. After an employee walkout, Google went a step further and dropped the requirement for all disputes. 

In a statement to Mashable, Match denied the allegations. 

The Match Group Board takes allegations of workplace misconduct extremely seriously.  We investigate reports of misconduct, including sexual harassment, promptly and thoroughly, and take appropriate action, including swift termination of those responsible for such behavior.

As it relates to the matter alleged in the lawsuit, an incident occurred in late 2016 and was reported at the end of April 2017. The Match Group Board – with the assistance of experienced outside counsel from two nationally recognized law firms – promptly conducted a careful and thorough investigation under the direction of independent Board members, concluded, among other things, that there was no violation of law or company policy, and took appropriate action.

After Pambakian’s assault came to light publicly, Match and IAC described the incident as “consensual cuddling.” Pambakian says her assault never got a proper investigation and was basically swept under the rug. She claims Tinder’s human resources and legal team attempted to “cover-up and conceal the misconduct.”

Mashable has also reached out to IAC for comment, but could not find contact information for Blatt, who left the company in 2017.

Pambakian’s suit alleges she 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.”

In her lawsuit, Pambakian doesn’t outline a specified dollar amount for damages.

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