Grindr, the LGBTQ dating company, is using a new return-to-office policy to punish employees who are trying to unionize, workers alleged in a complaint filed with US labor officials.

The company has recently restricted remote work and threatened workers with firing unless they live near or relocate to an in-person office, the Communications Workers of America said in a complaint filed Friday with the National Labor Relations Board.

The CWA said the moves were in response to the union drive that workers announced on July 20. Grindr didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I don’t see any need for a digital product such as ours to require a physical presence especially as we have worked so well remotely over the last three or so years,” said Grindr software engineer Jack Alto, a member of the union’s organizing committee.

Companies and their employees have been tussling over return-to-office policies. 

AT&T Inc. recently told 60,000 managers that they must report to work in person at one of nine locations, which some employees view as a move to reduce staff. Companies in states like New Jersey and Texas could lose tax breaks if workers don’t show up onsite often enough. And Google parent Alphabet Inc. said office attendance will now factor into performance reviews.

The CWA lodged a complaint in January against Alphabet and one of its staffing firms, accusing them of using return-to-office policies as a tool to try to derail a unionization campaign at YouTube Music. That complaint is still pending. The companies have denied wrongdoing.

NLRB Procedures

Complaints filed with the NLRB are investigated by regional officials who, if they find merit in the allegations and can’t 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.

Grindr’s return-to-office policy represents “a coercive and dramatic measure intended to harm our unionization campaign,” Alto said.

Many employees live far from the cities they’re being told to relocate to, and the policy will be particularly burdensome for trans staff who would need to find new health-care providers, Alto said.

Grindr employees have said they’re seeking to gain new benefits, shield existing ones, secure protections against potential layoffs and obtain representation on the company’s board. 

They have asked the company to voluntarily recognize their union, which they say has overwhelming support among a proposed bargaining unit of around 100 employees.

Company Memo

Management hasn’t publicly responded to the organizing drive. A company spokesperson said last month, “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, Chief Executive Officer George Arison told employees that executives have been working on the return-to-office plan “for many months.” 

Employees in product management and design, engineering and marketing will be expected back in the office in 60 days, according to the memo, which was viewed by Bloomberg News.

“Our leadership team is very excited that we will now be able to spend more time in person with each of you to continue to deliver on all that’s possible for our users, our team, and our shareholders with audacious goals and exceptional execution,” Arison wrote.

Despite many business leaders shifting from carrots — free food, happy hours — to sticks in recent months to get more workers back at their desks, working from home remains contentious.

Among US employees who are able to work from home, 46% had a hybrid schedule between March and June, according to a research team led by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, while 19% were fully remote.

The share of companies requiring full-time office attendance declined in the second quarter from the previous period, according to a survey of about 3,900 companies from Scoop, which helps companies manage hybrid workforces.

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