Grindr, the West Hollywood-based dating app for LGBTQ people, offered its workers a sudden ultimatum in early August: work from an office or leave the firm.
A month later, 80 workers are gone, according to the Grindr union, which alleges that the return-to-office requirement was presented to retaliate against the newly formed labor group. Grindr, in the note announcing the policy, wrote that it was simply following the mold of Bay Area tech giants like Meta, Google and Apple.
But the firm laid out its policy just two weeks after Grindr’s employees announced their intent to unionize, leaving workers with the impression that the return-to-office threat was an attempt to bust the union — the group has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Grindr’s policy was retaliatory and that the firm’s severance packages illegally silence workers. A Grindr spokesperson said the claims have “no merit.”
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“It is unimaginably disappointing that dozens of our colleagues have had to leave their jobs because Grindr management did not want to sit down with workers and respect our right to organize,” Erick Cortez, an organizing member of the Grindr union, said in a statement shared with SFGATE. The Communication Workers of America union, which Grindr employees are working with, called the policy “retaliatory and union-busting” and says 80 of Grindr’s 178 workers were forced to resign. The firm put its January head count at 202 in a March filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Workers announced the union on July 20 but have yet to hold the official election that would force the firm to the bargaining table. The company announced its return-to-office push on Aug. 3, declaring that U.S. workers could move to work two days a week from a hub in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Chicago, New York, or Washington, D.C., depending on their role, or leave and take two to six months of severance pay. Workers had two weeks to decide, and according to the union, 80 quit.
Grindr launched three years before Tinder, in 2009. Its use of the then-novel iPhone’s geospatial technology was groundbreaking; Grindr quickly became the go-to dating and hookup app for gay men. Though it’s expanded its offerings across the sexuality spectrum, Grindr is still often synonymous with no-strings-attached gay male matchmaking — the app is known for users’ racy photos, harsh “preferences” like “No fats, no femmes,” and very specific location data.
The firm spent four years as a subsidiary of Chinese gaming giant Kunlun, but after the United States government called the ownership arrangement a national security threat, Kunlun sold Grindr to an American investment group in 2020. It’s been known as a haven for LGBTQ workers in the tech industry, but Wired reported that the return-to-office ultimatum pushed out eight openly trans employees.
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In the company note announcing the policy, Grindr CEO George Arison wrote that “virtually all the leading technology companies” are opting for hybrid work, and Grindr is “following their learnings.” He cited research from Harvard and Meta, which has threatened to lay off workers for failures to meet new return-to-office guidelines.
Still, the move was a sudden turnaround for Grindr. In the SEC filing posted in March, the firm defended its remote team, much of which was hired after the pandemic began. “Our workforce is currently remote-first,” the document says. “This allows us to find the right talent to serve our users, regardless of location.”
Hear of anything happening at Grindr or another tech company? Contact tech reporter Stephen Council securely at [email protected] or on Signal at 628-204-5452.