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Rivian faces 2nd sexual harassment lawsuit from former employee in Normal

Charging station at Rivian plant
Eric Stock
WGLT file
This is the second gender-harassment lawsuit filed against Rivian in the past 13 months.

A second former female employee has filed a federal lawsuit against Rivian, claiming the electric automaker failed to protect her from sexual harassment from her male co-workers. 

The lawsuit was filed by a woman who worked in Rivian’s battery department for 16 months until she resigned in September 2022. The woman claims she was subjected to “severe and pervasive harassment based on her gender, resulting in a hostile work environment.” 

The woman singled out Rivian’s handling of a specific harassment claim against one of her co-workers, who she said put his fingers between her breasts and commented that she had a plunging neckline, according to the lawsuit.

The woman said the co-worker was fired, although he was told in advance he was being terminated and why — giving him “an opportunity to retaliate against” the woman. She said the co-worker sent an email to about 20 other Rivian workers before he left, causing her to be “shunned” and “subjected to further harassment.” 

Rivian denied the woman’s allegations in a 19-page response, filed Sept. 29, though it confirmed the co-worker was fired. Rivian declined to comment further on the lawsuit. 

This is the second gender-harassment lawsuit filed against Rivian in the past 13 months. 

The first lawsuit was filed in September 2022 by a different woman who worked as a battery team member in Normal. In that case, the woman claimed that an unnamed engineer groped her. The woman also said she was subjected to “offensive and derogatory comments by her male coworkers, such as being asked where she liked to have sex, her favorite sexual positions, and being told that a male co-worker was making bets that he could have sex with her,” the lawsuit claimed. 

Rivian initially sought to force the woman into arbitration, despite Congress recently passing a law saying employers can no longer do that. Advocates say ending forced arbitration gives workers freedom to decide what legal path works best for them — and to speak out publicly if they so choose. 

The woman sought class-action status for the 2022 lawsuit, which Rivian has opposed. Rivian also has denied the woman was subjected to sexual harassment. The lawsuit is pending.

Meanwhile, Rivian has resolved two separate racial-discrimination lawsuits filed in central Illinois. Those were both filed by the same attorney for two Black plaintiffs, on Feb. 27 and March 1. 

The first lawsuit was filed by a contracted employee through MacLellan Services, Rivian’s custodial services contractor. He claimed a co-worker called him the N-word, and that another co-worker said, “That’s not going to work, Buckwheat,” after he made a mistake during training. 

That case went into arbitration, and both sides agreed to dismiss the lawsuit Sept. 20. Terms were not disclosed. 

The second lawsuit was filed by someone who said he was hired by Rivian through Arrow Talent Management, a staffing agency. He claimed his supervisor called him the N-word after a tool broke while he was using it. The plaintiff claims he was fired after reporting the supervisor’s comment. 

That plaintiff has since revised his lawsuit, removing Rivian as a defendant. The new version of the lawsuit, filed Sept. 12, lists only ATCO Industries Inc. as the defendant. ATCO is a Michigan-based quality assurance solutions provider. It’s unclear what ATCO did or does for the company.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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