Prior to March 25, 2015, Mr. Karaiskos began having problems with the instructions of Michelle Alpern, a sales representative of the company. In an effort to resolve those issues, Mr. Karaiskos sent an email to Sheryl Hai-Ami, President of the Space Plus Division of The Sliding Door Company, and Mr. Polus’ wife. The email discussed that Ms. Alpern was engaged in numerous questionable, unsafe and potentially illegal activities. For instance, Ms. Alpern was altering CAD documents after engineering had approved them but before they were submitted to the clients.
Ms. Alpern also instructed Mr. Karaiskos to produce a door design that was unsafe, out of compliance with the ADA and of poor quality. When Mr. Karaiskos tried to direct her to an acceptable design, Ms. Alpern claimed that the General Contractor would take responsibility if anything happened. Mr. Kariaskos later learned this was untrue. The morning after he sent the email, Ms. Hai-Ami confronted Mr. Karaiskos in his office. She chastised Mr. Karaiskos for complaining about Ms. Alpern, whom she described as a “seasoned salesperson.” Ms. Hai-Ami also told Mr. Karaiskos that she could “not stand” him. Mr. Karaiskos verbally complained about Ms. Hai-Ami’s harassing and retaliatory conduct to Kimberly Antillon, the company’s Human Resources Manager.
The next day, March 25, 2015, Mr. Polus demanded that Mr. Karaiskos meet with him and Ms. Hai-Ami. Mr. Polus proceeded to yell at Mr. Karaiskos for sending the email to his (Mr. Polus’) wife. Even though the email was a legally protected challenge to practices that Mr. Karaiskos believed to be unsafe and potentially illegal, Mr. Polus threatened to fire Mr. Karaiskos for sending it. Mr. Polus further expounded on the virtues of professional communications, all while yelling at and belittling Mr. Karaiskos.
Immediately after this event, also on March 25, 2015, Mr. Karaiskos made a written complaint of harassment and retaliation to Ms. Antillon. Mr. Karaiskos’ written complaint also detailed the problems surrounding Ms. Alpern’s unsafe and potentially illegal installation design. Upon receipt of the complaint, Ms. Antillon verbally praised Mr. Karaiskos for challenging Mr. Polus and expressed her hope that it would be the catalyst for positive change in the company. She was wrong.
From what we can tell, Ms. Antillon shared Mr. Karaiskos’ concerns with Mr. Polus, who then took the reins of the investigation and used it as an opportunity to attack the whistleblower, Mr. Karaiskos. Ms. Antillon detailed the results of her investigation in an April 2, 2015 letter to Mr. Karaiskos. According to the April 2, 2015 letter, Ms. Antillon investigated Mr. Karaiskos’s complaint by talking to the involved parties and reviewing the emails in question. Ms. Antillon also outlined her findings.
First, Ms. Antillon confirmed that Ms. Hai-Ami was mistaken about “how the business process works.” In other words, Ms. Antillon found that Ms. Hai-Ami supported Ms. Alpern in trying to force Mr. Karaiskos to produce an unsafe design. Next, Ms. Antillon documented Mr. Polus’ admission that there was “a difference of opinion and that he raised his voice in his office.”
Ms. Antillon also recounted her interview with Daniela Gilmore, who confirmed “she heard yelling coming out of Doron’s office[.]” In other words, Ms. Antillon’s investigation confirmed all of the facts underlying Mr. Karaiskos’ complaint.
Notwithstanding, Ms. Antillon reached the non-sequitur conclusion that, “Given that you have not identified further witnesses to the conversation or provided any additional documentation, we are unable to confirm your claims set forth in your letter that there was any unlawful conduct that occurred.” The reason for this conclusion is clear. Mr. Polus controlled and directed the investigation into his own misconduct and required that Ms. Antillion find against Mr. Karaiskos.
Mr. Polus did not stop there however, and later on April 2, 2015, exacted his revenge on Mr. Karaiskos. Mr. Polus removed Mr. Karaiskos’ title as R&D Manager, removed his biography from the company website, took him off the Manager’s Schedule and instructed Lindsay Gage to stop sending Mr. Karaiskos the Manager’s Schedule. Mr. Polus also kicked Mr. Karaiskos out of his office, located where the other managers worked, and moved him into a shoddily equipped office on the production floor, nicknamed the dog-house due to its abysmal conditions.
It was impossible for Mr. Karaiskos to perform in this space due to the noise on the production floor. More importantly, it removed Mr. Karaiskos’ ability to monitor Ms. Hai-Ami’s activities.
On April 3, 2015, Mr. Karaiskos submitted a second written complaint to Ms. Antillon. In this letter, Mr. Karaiskos explicitly complained that Mr. Polus had demoted him in retaliation for his March 25, 2015 complaint. Mr. Karaiskos also discussed additional unlawful conduct in the company, including falsely selling products as ADA compliant that were not, selling unsafe hinges, falsely asserting patent protection to unpatented products and numerous other issues.
Instead of investigating Mr. Karaiskos’ complaint and making a good faith attempt to ensure he was protected from further retaliation, Ms. Antillon immediately shared Mr. Karaiskos’ email with Mr. Polus. This demonstrates that Ms. Antillon answered to Mr. Polus in the initial investigation and that he improperly controlled its outcome.
With reflexive rage, Mr. Polus fired off this email to Mr. Kariskos, Hi Pete, In regards to your letter to Kimberly today, April 3, 2015, I totally disagree with all of the content that you outlined. Regarding your concern about your role in the Sliding Door Company: There has been no demotion. You are the R&D Manager. Your office will be in the same place that the previous R&D Manager used to sit. …. Your computer has been moved to your new office. Please make sure to take your belongings to your new office.
While Mr. Polus surprisingly confirmed the retaliatory office transfer, he refused to address any of the safety concerns Mr. Karaiskos raised in his email. Mr. Polus also dodged the fact that he removed Mr. Karaiskos from the website, removed him from the manager’s schedule and instructed his secretary not to send the manager’s schedule to Mr. Karaiskos any more. Again, Mr. Polus elected to assert a self-serving conclusion (i.e., no demotion) that was at odds with the facts.
After sending the email on April 3, 2015, Mr. Polus went on vacation for a week. He returned to the office the following Monday, April 13, 2015. For two days, he refused to even talk to Mr. Karaiskos. Because this left the critical safety concerns unaddressed, Mr. Karaiskos contacted OSHA and filed a complaint against The Sliding Door Company.
When Mr. Polus returned from his vacation, Mr. Karaiskos experienced bugs with his Skype account. He tried to address the bugs with Mr. Polus’ brother-in-law, Eyal Salpeter. Oddly, Mr. Salpeter refused to act. Mr. Karaiskos then investigated himself. He discovered that Mr. Salpeter installed spyware on his computer on or around April 13, 2015, right around the time Mr. Polus returned from vacation. After realizing the extent of the spyware’s reach, Mr. Karaiskos became deeply concerned about the violation of his personal privacy. The company did have a policy allowing electronic monitoring of communications “either used in the workplace, during working time or to accomplish work tasks.” [Company Hand Book Section 4, p. 23-27]. However, the spyware Mr. Salpeter and Mr. Polus installed monitored and recorded Mr. Karaiskos’ private Skype conversations with a co-worker that occurred at home, on his personal computer, away from work. His co-worker used her personal cell phone as well. Thus, the conversations recorded were not subject to the company’s policy and were instead, a breach of Mr. Karaiskos’s personal privacy. Beyond mere monitoring, which could have been permitted by the company’s policy if the conversations occurred at work, the spyware recorded the conversation and saved it to a folder accessible to all of the company’s employees.
This is an additional reason why the installation of the spyware violated not only the [Sliding] Glass Door’s own policy, but also, California law. Mr. Karaiskos removed the spyware and then went to Mr. Salpeter’s office to inform him. When Mr. Salpeter took a phone call, Mr. Karaiskos returned to his office. A few minutes later, Mr. Salpeter entered Mr. Karaiskos’ office, yelling and screaming. He said that it was his computer and that Mr. Karaiskos had no right to remove anything. Mr. Karaiskos then explained that he had filed a complaint with OSHA and that the installation of spyware on his computer, which corresponded with the date Mr. Polus returned from vacation, was strong evidence of retaliatory intent. Mr. Karaiskos further warned Mr. Salpeter that if he reinstalled the spyware, he would be aiding Mr. Polus’ unlawful retaliation, which might be of interest to the ACLU. Mr. Salpeter stormed out of the office even angrier than when he arrived.
Mr. Karaiskos immediately emailed Mr. Salpeter, copying Ms. Antillon, to further explain why the far-reaching spyware was a violation of his reasonable expectations of privacy. He explained how the spyware recorded and posted all keystroke data to a public folder. This meant that if Mr. Karaiskos visited his on-line bank during a break, the entire company would have access to his username and password. Despite this warning, Mr. Salpeter reinstalled the spyware after Mr. Karaiskos left work for the evening. When Mr. Karaiskos arrived to work on April 17, 2015, and learned that Mr. Salpeter reinstalled the spyware despite his protests, he then sent an email to Ms. Antillon complaining about the invasion of his privacy. Mr. Salpeter responded by also making a complaint that Mr. Karaiskos threatened him. Apparently, Mr. Salpeter took Mr. Karaiskos’ protected complaints about the spyware being illegal as threatening. Even though Mr. Salpeter’s conduct was clearly illegal, and he was unequivocally the aggressor, Mr. Polus decided to suspend Mr. Karaiskos for allegedly making threats.
After confronting and suspending Mr. Karaiskos, Mr. Polus and Mr. Salpeter tried to bolster their false narrative that Mr. Karaiskos threatened Mr. Salpeter by calling the police. If they had truly feared for their safety, they would have called the police before confronting and suspending Mr. Karaiskos. The police declined to act or investigate.