Electric vehicle maker Rivian sued for ‘unlawful’ firing

A former executive at the electric vehicle maker Rivian has sued the company, saying she was fired in retaliation, two days after raising complaints about gender discrimination.

Laura Schwab, a former Aston Martin executive who was Rivian’s vice-president of sales and marketing until last month, claimed she was routinely excluded from meetings in which her expertise would have been valuable.

According to a statement released on Thursday, Schwab also raised concerns internally that delivery targets for Rivian’s electric vehicles, which include a pick-up truck and sport utility vehicle, were “not achievable”, but that she was “not taken seriously”.

The complaint was filed in California Superior Court in Orange County on Thursday and comes as Rivian prepares to make its stock market debut next week in one of the most hotly anticipated public offerings of the year.

It alleges Rivian’s “unlawful” firing will cost Schwab “millions of dollars” in unvested equity. According to a regulatory filing, Rivian intends to raise as much as $8.4bn, at a potential value of $53bn. The company did not respond to request for comment on Thursday.

Schwab is being represented by attorney David Lowe, who previously appeared for Ellen Pao in her unsuccessful gender discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. “Ms Schwab is determined to hold Rivian accountable for its bad behaviour,” Lowe said.

Schwab outlined her complaint in a blog post titled “Life outside the boys club”.

“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 marginalises women and contributes to the company making mistakes,” she wrote.

“I raised concerns to HR about the gender discrimination from my manager, the ‘boys club’ culture and the impact it was having on me, my team and the company. Two days later, my boss fired me.”

Schwab was formerly president for the Americas region at Aston Martin — the first woman to hold the post — and before that an executive at Jaguar Land Rover.

“Never in my years in the auto industry had I experienced such blatant marginalisation,” she wrote.

To date Rivian has delivered 156 vehicles to customers, but said it intended to increase that number to approximately 1,000 by the end of the year, by which time the company also said it hoped to deliver 10 of the 100,000 vans ordered by Amazon.

The ecommerce giant is both Rivian’s biggest customer and its largest investor, with a 22 per cent stake. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit on Thursday.

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