Ousted vegan cheesemaker and founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, Miyoko Schinner files countersuit against her former employer.
Following her dismissal last June and the official public announcement that went viral last month, Miyoko Schinner, founder of vegan dairy brand Miyoko’s Creamery, has filed a countersuit against her former company, alleging that she was forced out after filing multiple HR complaints about recently-hired male executives who “openly denigrated women.”
Schinner was hit with a lawsuit last month following her departure from the company that she founded in 2014, with claims that the founder was in breach of contract, stole company documents and trade secrets, and misappropriated intellectual property.
‘A campaign of mistreating women’
Schinner’s countersuit was filed last week by The Bloom Firm. The counterclaims follow weeks of the ousted founder sharing videos on social media to publicly deny the accusations made by her former employer and to condemn shifts to the work culture following key hires over the last several years. Her claims include gender discrimination, retaliation, and unlawful use of her likeness on the company website without her consent.
Schinner claims that following the hire of René Weber as VP of operations at Miyoko’s in 2021, he “immediately began a campaign of mistreating women,” including excluding them from meetings and withholding critical information that Schinner’s countersuit says made it “impossible for her to continue to effectively do her job.” According to the lawsuit, Weber “openly denigrated women, their expertise, and their contributions at Miyoko’s, calling some ‘stupid’ and ‘terrible,'” — terms Schinner says Weber never used about men.
Schinner claims Weber “mansplained” to her that she did not understand her own products or the company she founded. “In a markedly gendered tone, he described her ideas and ambition as unrealistic, driven by emotion and whim,” reads the countersuit.
Schinner says she also filed complaints to HR about John Zabrodsky, an operations consultant she says was hired by Miyoko’s at the urging of one of the company’s investors, PowerPlant Partners. Miyoko’s then “swiftly retaliated against [Schinner] by demoting her and then terminating her.”
The company raised nearly $60 million, including a $52 million Series C funding round in 2021.
The Miyoko’s Creamery board of directors says Schinner’s exit from the company came as she lacked the necessary skills to take the company to the next level as its CEO. Schinner maintains that she was “blindsided” by the lawsuit.
Explaining the decision to reporters, board member James Joaquin from investor Obvious Ventures said the company was seeking a new CEO with “proven P&L experience who has scaled a larger business.”
According to the court filings, Miyoko’s senior leadership team brought “multiple concerns” about Schinner to the board and “threatened to quit due to Schinner’s mismanagement.”
Miyoko’s is being represented by the San Diego law firm Mintz. Company counsel Jennifer Rubin told AgFunder News that while the company cannot comment given the pending lawsuit, as the company’s former CEO, Miyoko Schinner was “responsible for managing all of the organization’s employees, functions, strategies, and operations and, more importantly, providing information necessary to allow the company’s board to fulfill its oversight obligations.”