Grindr’s ultimatum has destroyed a unique queer space in tech.

Grindr's ultimatum has destroyed a unique queer space in tech.

Grindr’s Return-to-Office Mandate Sparks Outrage and Employee Exodus

LGBTQ+ dating app Grindr recently made headlines after implementing a return-to-office mandate that resulted in a significant loss of staff. The company gave its remote employees a two-week ultimatum: commit to working from the office two days a week starting in October, or lose their jobs by the end of August. Shockingly, 46 percent of the staff, a total of 82 out of 178 employees, opted to reject the mandate and were subsequently let go. The policy would have required many employees to relocate to cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Francisco.

This abrupt return-to-office move has dealt a severe blow to Grindr’s unique and queer-friendly workplace culture, which was considered a rarity in the tech industry. The company has come under fire for asking LGBTQ+ staff to abandon their support networks, especially in a political climate where homophobic and transphobic attacks are on the rise.

The Communications Workers of America, which represents Grindr employees, has filed two unfair labor practice charges with the US National Labor Relations Board against the company. They accuse Grindr of unlawfully suppressing discussion of working conditions in company chats and through an agreement that terminated employees were offered in exchange for severance pay. The board has the power to issue remedies, such as revoking parts of the agreement or preventing the company from restricting speech in the future.

Grindr did offer a relocation stipend to the remaining employees and provided six months of severance pay to those who did not commit to in-office work. The company spokesperson, Sarah Bauer, stated that the decision to return to the office was unrelated to the employees’ decision to unionize. She emphasized that Grindr respects and supports its team members’ rights to choose their own union representation.

According to Bauer, the transition from remote-first to hybrid work had already begun in April, with a focus on engineering hiring in the Chicago hub. However, some employees contest this claim, stating that Grindr’s CEO George Arison did not announce any policy changes during a meeting, except to say that the company was keeping its options open with no changes planned for the next six months. Confusion and disagreement over this change in policy have further fueled the discontent within Grindr’s workforce.

Grindr’s employee union estimates that a significant portion of the engineering, product, and product design teams were cut after the first phase of the return-to-office mandate took effect. Company spokesperson Sarah Bauer disputes these figures but declined to publicly disclose the exact numbers.

Furthermore, employees from various teams, including privacy and customer experience, will face expulsion during a second phase of the rollout next year if they refuse to comply with the in-office policy. This mass exodus has raised concerns among the remaining staff about the app’s functionality, drawing parallels to Elon Musk’s employee purge at Twitter and the resulting glitchy chaos.

Erick Cortez, a knowledge specialist on Grindr’s customer experience team based in Dallas, Texas, expressed frustration over the lack of guidance regarding relocation. With the majority of the engineering team gone, Cortez highlighted the challenges in resolving app issues, as they no longer know who to contact for support.

While several tech companies, such as Amazon, Meta, and Google, have been placing restrictions on remote work, Grindr’s sudden and unexpected transition has left many employees blindsided. The CEO’s announcement came over a Zoom meeting, abruptly ending before employees could address their concerns. Questions posted on Slack, the company’s messaging platform, were subsequently ignored.

Employees have criticized Grindr for breaking previous commitments to remote work made by CEO George Arison, who had emphasized their intentions at a company off-site event in June. The Human Resources department’s reassurances on Slack also added to the confusion. Even employees who were hired just weeks before the announcement were not informed that working in the office would be expected from them. As a result, the CWA filed an unfair labor practice charge, alleging that the mandate was a retaliatory measure against the employees for unionizing.

In addition to alleged union-busting, the company disabled the chat feature in Zoom during all-hands meetings after the announcement and only reinstated it once the terminated employees had left. This action is one of the subjects of the unfair labor practice charges filed by Grindr’s union, arguing that the company unlawfully shut down an important communication channel for discussing workplace matters.

One transgender employee, who asked to remain anonymous, shared their disappointment with the new policy. They revealed that choosing to leave Grindr meant leaving behind a job they loved and a support system that included doctors providing crucial transgender medical care. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, Grindr provided a sense of belonging and inclusivity, making the sudden policy change even more difficult to comprehend.

The CWA has filed another charge with the NLRB, alleging that a severance agreement offered to departing employees included a confidentiality clause that could prohibit them from discussing company policies and plans. This clause would likely restrict their ability to communicate with each other, the NLRB, and the union.

It’s worth noting that this is not the first time the CWA has accused return-to-office policies of being used as a tool for union-busting. In January, the union filed charges against Alphabet, Google’s parent company, accusing them of punishing YouTube employees who had recently unionized. Alphabet denies these allegations.

Grindr employees who remain at the company still harbor hope that the beloved workplace culture can be salvaged. The union, in partnership with the employees, aims to reverse the return-to-office policy and protect what Grindr stands for. Despite the conflicts and the mass departure of staff, many workers believe in the app’s mission and its power to foster a genuine sense of community.