DIGGING DEEPER: Woman accusing Rivian of sexual harassment, assault at Normal plant

Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 9:44 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - The woman behind a federal lawsuit against Rivian Automotive is sharing her story of harassment and assault at the Normal plant in hopes more victims come forward.

To protect her identity, 25News is not releasing the woman’s name. Her face is obscured and her voice is masked.

The suit alleged the woman was forced to resign from her job due to hostile work enforcement that violated her rights to equal opportunity employment in the state.

She said she was subject to continual sexual harassment, receiving catcalls, wolf whistles, and comments on her body from her male coworkers. Allegedly, a coworker tried to solicit group sex from the woman. Women were referred to with derogatory language and lewd gestures were made towards the woman, such as male coworkers pretending to masturbate in her general direction.

“That was pretty much a daily thing that happened,” she said.

“I had the thought many times like I’m glad it’s me and not my daughter because I can’t imagine her being subjected to that,” she continued.

Some of the harassment listed out in the suit.
Some of the harassment listed out in the suit.(WEEK)

We reached out to Rivian once last week, Wednesday and again Thursday before publishing the story. We have not received any reply.

Companies typically do not comment on ongoing litigation. We requested Rivian speak broadly on their sexual harassment and human resources policies but still did not receive a reply.

Her issues came to a head when a contractor with Rivian touched her breasts without consent. She reported the man to HR and he was terminated. However, he was informed of why he was terminated and who reported him. He allegedly sent an email smearing the woman’s reputation and calling her a liar.

Quotes from the federal Rivian lawsuit regarding an alleged assault.
Quotes from the federal Rivian lawsuit regarding an alleged assault.(WEEK)

She believes she was entitled to anonymity when reporting him to HR. She allegedly confronted HR about the problem. An employee told her “I am just one HR person dealing with over 800 employees, what do you want me to do?”

“They’re always just focused on production,” she said. “They’re not focused on their workers, they’re focused on production, unfortunately.”

She alleged the sexual harassment training was lackluster. She said it was an app with a slideshow that employees could scroll through without any questions or test at the end.

When she first started with the company, the woman said she was excited to work somewhere on the front lines of new technology.

“I was excited to work for a company that seemed to have a lot of opportunity for women and seemed to be a progressive company that was going places,” she said. “I was very excited to work in an environment where I felt like I would be helping the environment.”

It seemed like a good job with high pay and fun perks for employees like free food, t-shirts, and other incentives to keep morale high. She led a team that manufactured the batteries that go in all of their cars.

“That slowly faded probably about six months into my employment there,” she said. “There really was no work-life balance and it was hard to get time off.”

She worked 12-hour shifts like the other Rivian employees. It was physically and mentally demanding work involving lifting and bending. She would get a three or four-day weekend depending on how many hours she worked that week, but said she would lose a day to let her body recover.

According to the suit, the woman and other female workers felt discouraged from going to human resources. They were told the department would not be able to do much.

Quotes from the federal Rivian lawsuit regarding the HR department at the plant.
Quotes from the federal Rivian lawsuit regarding the HR department at the plant.(WEEK)

The woman is seeking unspecified damages for the incident.

She’s coming forward in hopes more women from the plant will share their stories.

“If not me, then who?” she said. “I feel like there are so many women there that are struggling, I know of so many women there that are struggling.”