Former Rivian Executive Sues Electric Truck Maker for Gender Discrimination Ahead of $60B IPO
Big news today as a former Rivian executive accuses the electric vehicle truck maker of wrongdoings. According to a Wall Street Journal article, a staff member named Laura Schwab was previously a sales vice president before being fired for voicing a variety of concerns.
What did the former VP of sales witness at Rivian?
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Schwab filed a lawsuit with the California Superior Court in Orange County Thursday. This is just ahead of Rivian’s highly-anticipated IPO offering, rocking the boat at one of the most critical moments for the start-up. The whistleblower says that she was fired after raising concerns to HR “that she had been subjected to gender discrimination.”
Schwab claims she initially raised concerns internally, noting that Rivian “underpriced its vehicles, had manufacturing-quality issues and set unrealistic delivery targets.” She also claims that Rivian fostered a “toxic ‘bro’ culture” that made her feel excluded from employee meetings after she raised concerns.
After 20 years in the industry, Schwab said this was the worst culture she had experienced. Schwab also published an article on Medium titled “Life Outside the Boys Club: Why I Spoke Up About Rivian’s Toxic Bro Culture (and Got Fired).”
“Rivian publicly boasts about its culture, so it was a crushing blow when I joined the company and almost immediately experienced a toxic bro culture that marginalizes women and contributes to the company making mistakes.”Laura Schwab | Medium
Before joining the company, she notes that there was no structure in place to help launch the highly-anticipated electric vehicle truck. During her time at the company, Schwab says she was excluded from important meetings that would impact the success of the vehicle launch and other initiatives.
Laura Schwab was concerned about vehicle quality and safety during the manufacturing process
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Rivian is currently backed by some big-name companies like Amazon and Ford, as it plans to go public next week. Currently, the company is seeking a $60 billion valuation next week. Rivian has started production on the R1T electric truck and has plans for an SUV later this year.
Upon raising concerns with the company, Schwab was encouraged to keep her comments from CEO RJ Scaringe. After that, her observations were dismissed by the staff members she went to. Schwab says she was concerned the electric vehicles were underpriced. Another male executive raised similar concerns, which caused Rivian to agree that prices would need to increase once the IPO period had passed.
Additionally, Schwab said she told the company she was worried about the manufacturing process and vehicle quality. She suggested that the first Rivian electric trucks go to staff members instead of the general public. The company initially declined this idea but later adopted it once a male coworker brought up similar initiatives. “It wasn’t until my (often less experienced) male colleagues raised the same ideas that the Chief Commercial Officer would respond.” Members of the Rivian staff have been seen driving the vehicles near the manufacturing plant in California in recent months.
Schwab raised concerns with HR and was fired two days later
Further, Schwab noted she was worried about the company’s ability to meet delivery targets that Rivian had set. She said she asked Rivian to set more realistic goals and objectives. In a securities filing this week, Rivian noted it planned to deliver 1,000 vehicles to buyers by the end of 2021. Earlier filings did not include such projections.
Schwab declined to offer more information about her concerns when talking with Wall Street Journal, citing a nondisclosure agreement she signed. In the lawsuit, she said she was cut out of specific meetings involving her team and said other female employees were similarly excluded.
After announcing the IPO, Schwab says her responsibilities were transferred to other employees. She also says that her weekly meetings with her superiors were canceled. After that, her boss mentioned he would contact her after hours on Slack to talk. The following day, Schwab said she complained to HR about the treatment.
Two days later, Schwab was fired. The paperwork said that there was a restructuring happening within the company, and her position was being eliminated. Her lawsuit notes that no other executives were fired, and no other restructuring seemed to take place internally.