COO Says Rivian Fired Her Over Concerns About Toxic Brother Culture

Rivian EV pickup.

Adam Jeffrey | CNBC

A former female executive at Rivian is suing the launch of the electric car, claiming she was fired for expressing concerns about the company’s “toxic brotherly culture.”

Laura Schwab, who came to Rivian late last year from Aston Martin, described the company as an “old boys’ club” in which female executives like her were left out of important meetings and were marginalized, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in California Supreme Court in Orange County. Schwab also filed a lawsuit with the American Arbitration Association.

Schwab claims she was fired from Rivian last month after she complained to HR about the company’s “toxic” work culture and the removal of female executives from important meetings. Schwab also claims the company has dismissed concerns it has raised about Rivian’s business.

“Rivian publicly brags about its culture, so it was a devastating blow to me when I joined the company and almost immediately experienced a toxic marriage culture that marginalizes women and encourages the company to make mistakes,” Schwab said in an interview. Medium post published on Thursday afternoon. “I have raised concerns in HR about my manager’s gender discrimination, the boys’ club culture and its impact on me, my team and company. Two days later, my boss fired me. “

Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast declined to comment on Schwab’s message and allegations. She cited restrictions related to the company’s quiet period in the IPO, which she filed for in August. The company is expected to go public on the Nasdaq next week.

Schwab, formerly president of Aston Martin’s US division, was hired last November as Rivian’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. She was a notable addition to the company after a 20-year career with the famous British luxury brand as well as Jaguar Land Rover.

In his lawsuit, Schwab claims that Rivian violated the California labor code, damaged her reputation and cost her “millions of dollars in undisbursed shares on the eve of the company’s IPO.” Schwab said she was offered a $ 360,000 base salary, a 40% bonus, a $ 4,000 monthly stipend, a $ 100,000 sign-up bonus, and $ 1.5 million in limited stocks. access at the time when she was offered the job. complaint.

Rivian, backed by Amazon and Ford, is expected to push for a $ 60 billion valuation in an IPO that could take place as early as next week, CNBC sources previously reported. Rivian is developing commercial last mile delivery vans for Amazon and has recently begun production of its highly anticipated R1T electric pickup truck.

According to the lawsuit, Schwab told Jiten Behl. Bel, a former chief executive of the consulting firm Roland Berger, oversees Rivian’s customer-centric teams across the entire business, including brand, sales and marketing, among others, according to the company’s website.

Schwab said she raised concerns about Rivian’s “ability to deliver on its promises to investors,” in front of Bel and other executives, including Stuart Dixon, director of product management, and Andy Zitschek, general product manager, who were fired. She was also instructed not to voice her concerns to Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe, the lawsuit said.

Schwab said she warned executives that Rivian’s cars were underpriced, but she was turned down. Bel later agreed that Rivian would need to raise car prices after a male executive raised the issue with him, the lawsuit said.

Schwab said she also expressed skepticism about Rivian’s production and supply plans during sales and production meetings in September. Rivian revealed last week according to the amended securities filing, it expects to deliver R1T 1,000 by the end of the year.

‘Nobody was listening’

In a blog post, Schwab said she was “happy” to join Rivian, but that excitement quickly escalated into a sense of marginalization over the perceived model of exclusion among the top executives of the male company.

“Despite my 20 years of experience in the automotive industry and my position as vice president of sales and marketing, I was excluded from important meetings that affected our mission and my team,” Schwab wrote. “Time and time again, I have raised concerns about vehicle pricing and lead times, but no one listened, although I have a lot of experience with launching and pricing cars. That was until my (often less experienced) male colleagues came up with exactly the same ideas that the Chief Commercial Officer would respond to. Never in my years in the automotive industry have I faced such blatant marginalization. “

Schwab claimed that her boss said the reason for her firing was “a larger ‘reorganization’.” However, Schwab claims that she was the only person “reorganized.”

“I pointed out that my dismissal and the fact that I raised concerns about corporate culture and gender discrimination just two days earlier were not accidental,” she said. “The very person I identified as promoting a discriminatory culture was the person who fired me.”

CNBC reached out to Schwab, whose lawyer David Lowe responded on her behalf. In the post, Lowe said “Schwab is determined to hold Rivian accountable for her misbehavior.”

Lowe’s San Francisco firm, Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, previously represented the former COO in Pinterest who last year settled her Gender discrimination and illegal dismissal case against social network for $ 22.5 million.

Law firm Lowe also represented former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao in a lawsuit against Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Pao, who filed a complaint against a venture capital firm when she was a partner, lost the discrimination lawsuit.

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