Laura Schwab
Source: Getty

Laura Schwab’s Lawsuit Against Rivian Raises Gender Equality Concerns

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Nov. 5 2021, Published 9:41 a.m. ET

A former female executive at Rivian is bringing a gender discrimination lawsuit against the electric vehicle startup. The litigation comes at an inopportune time for the company. Rivian’s upcoming IPO could give the company up to a $60 billion valuation. Laura Schwab claims in the lawsuit that Rivian has a “toxic bro culture that marginalizes women.”

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Schwab, who had 20 years of experience in the automobile industry before joining Rivian in late 2020, described her experiences in a blog post. She alleges that on various occasions when she raised concerns about the business, leaders ignored her. She got fired just two days after she complained about a hostile work environment.

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Laura Schwab’s claims in Rivian lawsuit

Schwab was vice president of sales and marketing for Rivian, an electric vehicle startup led by founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe. She reported directly to Jiten Behl. The suit states that Schwab brought up concerns to Behl and other executives about the company’s ability to deliver vehicles in the quantity and timeline proposed.

According to Schwab, her concerns were dismissed. She was also instructed not to share her concerns with Scaringe.

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In another situation, Schwab says she warned that Rivian’s vehicles were underpriced, but Behl only considered that issue after a male executive stated the same concern. Another concern Schwab had flagged about the manufacturing process was also ignored, only to be later addressed.

The Wall Street Journal reported Schwab’s claims that in her time at Rivian, she and other female executives were regularly excluded from critical strategy meetings affecting their teams and goals.

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Schwab also states that while the IPO preparations were accelerating, many of her responsibilities were transferred to male executives. When she tried to get a meeting with her boss, she was told instead to contact him via Slack outside of work hours.

Rivian Normal
Source: Rivian Newsroom

Rivian manufacturing work at the plant in Normal, Illinois.

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Schwab was fired last month, two days after raising gender discrimination concerns to the HR department. The lawsuit alleges that Rivian’s dismissal of her harmed her reputation and cost her millions in unvested equity before the IPO.

The company claimed “reorganization” as the cause of Schwab’s dismissal, which she argues isn't possible since no one else was let go. “The very person I had flagged as promoting the discriminatory culture was the person who terminated me.”

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David Lowe, whose firm also represented a former COO at Pinterest in a gender-discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit last year, is Schwab’s representation in the suit. Lowe said to CNBC that “Schwab is determined to hold Rivian accountable for its bad behavior.”

Laura Schwab’s background in the auto industry

Schwab is far from inexperienced in the auto industry. She worked for two decades in top leadership at Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. She served in the role of marketing director for Jaguar Land Rover for 14 years. After that, she worked at Aston Martin’s American division as its first female president—a role she held for over five years.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Schwab said, “The culture at Rivian was actually the worst I’ve experienced in over 20 years in the automotive industry.”

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