Grindr allegedly retaliated against employees attempting to unionize by compelling them to return to the office, according to labor complaint.

Grindr allegedly retaliated against employees attempting to unionize by compelling them to return to the office, according to labor complaint.

Grindr Faces Opposition as it Pushes for Return-to-Office Policy

Grindr Office

Grindr, the popular online dating app, is facing backlash from its employees as it implements a return-to-office policy. The company has recently restricted remote work and threatened workers with firing unless they live near or relocate to an in-person office. The move has been met with criticism from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) who filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The implementation of the return-to-office policy is seen as a response to the union drive announced by Grindr workers on July 20. According to Grindr software engineer Jack Alto, a member of the union’s organizing committee, there is no need for a digital product like Grindr to require a physical presence, especially when remote work has been successful over the past few years.

This battle over return-to-office policies is not unique to Grindr. Companies across industries have been grappling with how to bring employees back to the office. AT&T recently required 60,000 managers to report to work in person at specific locations, which some employees view as a way to reduce staff. Companies in states like New Jersey and Texas risk losing tax breaks if workers don’t show up onsite often enough. Even Google parent company, Alphabet Inc., has added office attendance as a factor in performance reviews.

This is not the first time the CWA has lodged a complaint against a tech giant for using return-to-office policies to hinder unionization efforts. In January, the CWA filed a complaint against Alphabet and one of its staffing firms, accusing them of using these policies to derail a unionization campaign at YouTube Music. The outcome of that complaint is still pending.

NLRB Procedures and Allegations

Complaints filed with the NLRB are investigated by regional officials who, if they find merit in the allegations and cannot secure a settlement, can prosecute the case before an agency judge. The judge’s rulings can be appealed to the NLRB members in Washington and from there to a federal appeals court.

For Grindr employees, the return-to-office policy is seen as a coercive and drastic measure aimed at harming their unionization campaign. Many employees live far from the cities they are being told to relocate to, adding an additional burden, especially for transgender staff who would need to find new healthcare providers.

The push for unionization at Grindr is driven by employees seeking new benefits, protection of existing ones, safeguards against potential layoffs, and representation on the company’s board. The proposed bargaining unit consists of around 100 employees, and the union claims to have overwhelming support.

Management’s Response and the Road Ahead

Grindr’s management has not publicly responded to the employees’ unionization efforts. A spokesperson for the company stated, “We respect our employees’ rights and point of view, and we will continue to work together to make Grindr a great place to work for all.”

In a memo to employees, Chief Executive Officer George Arison mentioned that the return-to-office plan had been in the works for many months. While employees in product management and design, engineering, and marketing will be expected back in the office in 60 days, there has been no indication of the company’s stance on the unionization drive.

The debate around remote work continues to be contentious. Despite some companies shifting from incentives, such as free food and happy hours, to stricter policies to encourage workers’ return to the office, a significant percentage of employees prefer flexible working arrangements. According to research led by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, 46% of US employees with the ability to work from home had a hybrid schedule between March and June, while 19% were fully remote.

A survey conducted by Scoop, a company specializing in managing hybrid workforces, found that the number of companies requiring full-time office attendance declined in the second quarter compared to the previous period. This signifies that companies are adjusting their policies to accommodate employee preferences and the changing nature of work.

As the NLRB investigates the complaint filed against Grindr, the outcome will have broader implications for the future of remote work, unionization efforts, and the balance between employee rights and company policies. It remains to be seen how companies will navigate these challenges in the post-pandemic era.