A Vernon manufacturer of electric vehicles issued a statement Wednesday denying the allegations of a former supply chain boss who claims she was fired in retaliation for complaining about discrimination and other wrongdoing at the company.
Plaintiff Shawn VanAmburg alleges in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Feb. 13 that the owner of Independent Electrical Vehicles, Shi Hai, once told her to fire all her white male employees and replace them with Chinese women.
“Indi EV is aware of Ms. VanAmburg’s lawsuit and the allegations contained therein,” the company statement says. “Indi EV denies the allegations have any merit and looks forward to vindicating itself through the appropriate legal procedures.”
VanAmburg’s allegations include wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation and racial discrimination. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
VanAmburg was hired at the Soto Street business in November 2017 and had extensive automotive experience, according to her court papers. The Rancho Palos Verdes resident says she met with Hai for the first time in February 2018 and extended her hand, but Hai rebuffed her, saying, “I thought you were going to be a man.”
“Mr. Hai believed plaintiff was a male when he hired her due to her gender-neutral first name,” the suit alleges.
VanAmburg discovered what she believed were safety violations at the company, but was rebuffed when she reported them to management in January 2018, the suit states. She again complained in April and June of that year, but still no corrective actions were taken, according to her suit, which alleges the failure to fix the problems resulted in an employee being hurt on the job and needing 15 stitches in his left hand.
Hai’s alleged order to replace her white male staff members with Chinese women occurred in July 2018, the suit says.
“Chinese women like to shop and are better negotiators,” Hai allegedly told VanAmburg, according to a letter filed on her behalf with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing that is attached to the suit.
Despite VanAmburg’s “shock and belief” at the alleged Hai directive, the plaintiff gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked if he meant what he said, according to her court papers.
“Without hesitation, Mr. Hai responded with an unequivocal, `Yes,’ the suit alleges.
VanAmburg alleges she reported the Hai order to human resources, but a department supervisor told her Hai “does not mean what he says” and that the plaintiff “should not worry about him.”
The suit alleges that in a discussion between company supervisors Esther “Star” Kim and Miles Bernal, Kim stated VanAmburg was fired because “the (expletive) knew too much.”