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Former Tinder Executive Alleges Sexual Assault by Ex-CEO (2)

Aug. 5, 2019, 8:20 PMUpdated: Aug. 6, 2019, 4:57 PM

A former executive at Tinder sued its parent company and ex-CEO, alleging sexual assault and retaliation.

Rosette Pambakian says she was one of the earliest executives hired at the dating app company, and that her career was “on the rise until she was sexually assaulted” by Tinder and Match Group/IAC CEO Gregory Blatt. She further alleges a cover-up and retaliatory wrongful termination following the assault, according to the complaint filed Aug. 5.

“As soon as the Company Defendants became aware of Defendant Blatt’s assault and the events leading up to it, including the cultivation of a harassing work environment that rewarded men like Defendant Blatt, the Company Defendants began a campaign to cover up the assault and disparage Plaintiff,” attorneys for Pambakian wrote. “Indeed, a meaningful ‘investigation’ of Plaintiff’s complaint about Defendant Blatt’s assault, which was required under IAC and Match company policies, and California law, never occurred.”

Pambakian, who joined Tinder as head of communications in 2014, says Blatt subjected her to “inappropriate behavior” culminating in a physical and sexual assault in December 2016. After that, she says, the corporate defendants began a campaign to cover it up and disparage the plaintiff.

They further failed to look into certain details in their investigation, according to the complaint.

“The Company Defendants failed to interview a key eyewitness and ignored damning facts, because the Company Defendants did not want to risk their bottom line,” the lawsuit reads. “Rather, 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.”

The Match Group Board denied the allegations, and said in a statement that it 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,” the board wrote in an email. “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.”

The company also provided an email from Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg to Pambakian. In the email, Ginsberg says the former employee wasn’t terminated for reporting sexual harassment.

“As explained in the letter we sent you, you were terminated because it was not possible for you to fulfill the duties and responsibilities of your role as Tinder’s spokesperson for a number of reasons, including your public position against the company over a valuation process,” the email says.

The lawsuit includes claims for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual battery, gender violence, negligent misrepresentation, wrongful termination, and retaliation for engaging in protected activity. There’s also a claim for violation of the Ralph Act, which protects Californians against hate violence and hate crimes.

Pambakian is represented by M. Elizabeth Graham of Grant & Eisenhofer PA.

The case is Pambakian v. Blatt, Cal. Super. Ct., complaint filed 8/5/19.

(Updated with Match Group statement. )

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAfee in Los Angeles at dmcAfee@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bloomberglaw.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com

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