Exec says Rivian fired her over “toxic bro culture” concerns


Rivian EV pickup truck.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

A former female executive at Rivian is suing the electric vehicle startup, claiming she was fired for raising concerns that the company has a “toxic bro culture”.

Laura Schwab, who joined Rivian from Aston Martin late last year, described the company as an “old boys’ club” where female executives like her have been excluded and marginalized from important meetings, according to the lawsuit filed on Thursday California Superior Court in Orange County. Schwab also filed a lawsuit with the American Arbitration Association.

Schwab claims she was fired by Rivian last month after complaining to HR about the company’s “toxic” work culture and the exclusion of women executives at key meetings. Schwab also claims the company has dismissed concerns it raised about Rivian’s business.

“Rivian publicly brags about its culture, so it was a devastating blow when I entered the company and almost immediately experienced a toxic bro culture that marginalizes women and helps the company make mistakes,” Schwab said in a Medium post published on Thursday afternoon. “I have raised concerns with HR about gender discrimination by my manager, the boys club culture, and the impact it has on me, my team and the company. My boss fired me two days later. “

Rivian spokeswoman Amy Mast declined to comment on Schwab’s post and the allegations. She cited restrictions on the company’s downtime in connection with the initial public offering that was applied for in August. The company is expected to be listed on the Nasdaq as early as next week.

Schwab, who previously served as president of Aston Martin’s US division, was hired as Rivian’s first vice president of sales and marketing last November. After a 20-year career with the famous British luxury brand and Jaguar Land Rover, she was a high-profile addition to the company.

In her lawsuit, Schwab alleged that Rivian violated California Labor Law, damaged her reputation and “cost her millions of dollars in uninvested equity on the eve of the company’s IPO.” Schwab said she was given a base salary of $ 360,000, a 40% bonus, a monthly stipend of $ 4,000, a sign-up bonus of $ 100,000, and $ 1.5 million of equity in restricted stock units offered when she was offered a job The complaint.

Rivian, which is backed by Amazon and Ford, is expected to target a valuation of up to $ 60 billion in an IPO that could take place as early as next week, sources previously told CNBC. Rivian develops last-mile commercial vans for Amazon and recently started production of its highly anticipated R1T electric pickup truck.

According to the lawsuit, Schwab contacted Jiten Behl. Behl, a former director of consulting firm Roland Berger, oversees Rivian’s customer-facing teams across the company, including branding, sales, and marketing, according to the company’s website.

Schwab said she had raised concerns about Rivian’s “ability to deliver on its promises to investors” to Behl and other executives, including Stuart Dixon, director of product management and Andy Zicheck, principal product manager, who were fired. She has also been ordered not to voice her concerns to Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe, the lawsuit states.

Schwab said she warned executives that Rivian’s vehicles were undervalued, but she was rejected. Behl later agreed that Rivian would have to raise vehicle prices after a male manager raised the issue with him, the lawsuit said.

Schwab said she also expressed skepticism about Rivian’s manufacturing and delivery goals during September sales and operations meetings. Rivian announced in an amended securities filing last week that it plans to ship 1,000 R1Ts by the end of the year.

“Nobody listened”

On her blog post, Schwab said she was “excited” to come to Rivian, but that excitement quickly turned into feelings of marginalization following an alleged pattern of exclusion among the company’s top executives.

“Despite my 20 years of experience in the automotive industry and my position as VP of Sales and Marketing, I was banned from important meetings that affected our mission and my team,” Schwab wrote. “I have raised concerns about vehicle prices and lead times over and over, but no one has listened, even though I have extensive experience with vehicle launches and pricing. It wasn’t until my (often less experienced) male colleagues came up with exactly the same ideas, ”that the Chief Commercial Officer would answer. Never in my years in the auto industry had I seen such blatant marginalization. “

Schwab claimed her boss said the reason for her firing was “major ‘reorganization” “. However, Schwab argues that she was the only person who was “reorganized”.

“I pointed out that it was no coincidence that I was fired just two days earlier and raised concerns about the brothers’ culture and gender discrimination,” she said. “The person I identified as promoting the discriminatory culture was the person who quit me.”

CNBC reached out to Schwab, whose attorney David Lowe responded on their behalf. In a press release, Lowe said, “Schwab is determined to hold Rivian accountable for his bad behavior.”

Lowe’s San Francisco-based firm, Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLP, previously represented a former chief operating officer at Pinterest who last year brought their case against the social media company for $ 22.5 million for sex discrimination and wrongful termination. Dollar enclosed.

Lowe’s law firm also represented former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao in her gender discrimination lawsuit against Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers. Pao, who had filed a lawsuit against the venture capital company as a partner, lost the discrimination suit.