Part II: My personal hellscape of conflicts of interest, obstruction, & arbitrary denials of due process continues… Substack version: [link]
This article is a continuation of my May 2022 article about Apple’s “capture” of the US government. This article will discuss recent revelations from US EPA FOIA documents & retaliation *by* the US Department of Labor against whistleblowers.
Since May 2022, a lot has developed with my Apple whistleblower cases. The most incredible was the release of the first US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents about my Apple office, so let’s start there.
The TRW Microwave Superfund Site
In January 2022, I asked the US EPA about the status of my August 29 2021 formal complaint to the US EPA about Apple, Lisa Jackson, & my Superfund office – but the US EPA told me they sent my complaint (about federal laws and agencies) to state of California. The California EPA would later claim they never received a referral, nor would they have jurisdiction on the matter.
I also emailed the site contacts for my Apple office Superfund site, asking for confirmation if the indoor air was ever tested or cracks in the floor inspected. The US EPA would out-right refuse to answer any of my questions, even after I pleaded that the information about chemical exposure would directly impact my risk of cancer, lifetime health outcome, my coworkers still being exposed, and my open litigation against Apple.
In January 2022, I filed three FOIA requests for US EPA information about my Apple Superfund office. The US EPA FOIA lawyers would intimidate me: frequently trying to get me onto phone calls and video meetings despite my insistence to keep everything in writing; threatening me it may cost me hundreds or thousands of dollars to respond to my requests; and refusing to respond to requests for EPA headquarters documents without overly-specific information & pre-agreeing to pay a potentially large sum of money.
In March 2022, I’d receive a copy of Apple’s position statement in my US Dept of Labor whistleblower cases where Apple would claim both they and the US EPA had reassured me that my Apple office was safe & fine, and thus my concerns were unreasonable and unprotected.
I became further inflamed after I noticed the US EPA quietly added a document to their website supposedly about groundwater testing in 2021, but on page 89 of 329 (yes, this kind of extensive research & watchdogging is basically all I do now), the report noted there was some sort of EPA visit to my Apple office in October of 2021 to inspect the vapor intrusion mitigation system (the sub-slat depressurization system, or SSD).
I pressed harder for more information. I raised more concerns about the US EPA to the US EPA, about them apparently continuing to helping Apple cover up the issues with my office and what Apple did to me. I complained again of Lisa Jackson influencing the matter.
The first significant document I would receive was on May 27 2022: a three page letter from the US EPA to Northrop Grumman on October 7 2021.
I will never forget opening that PDF. The letter documented an onsite inspection of my office by the US EPA on August 19 2021 (while I was suspended, before I was fired), where the US EPA found a number of safety issues, including several concerns I myself raised months prior in email and before I was suspended.
I wept for nearly an hour. With everything I’ve suffered and lost after speaking up about that damn office, I’ve of course questioned whether it was worth it. What if I was wrong? Unfortunately I was not wrong. We were exposed to industrial chemical vapors & the site was out of compliance with Superfund regulations.
I wept with relief & I wept with grief.
I pushed on the US EPA site team again for more information, at which point a US EPA lawyer responded by removing the scientists and engineers, and told me I’d only be able to talk to her going forward, & she would not answer any of my questions. I doth protested much.
I received the first batch of FOIA documents on June 27 2022, over six months after I requested them. I received the completed response to the first request August 29 2022 and a partial release of the second request on August 12 2022. The remainder of the second request and the entirety of the third request still have not been released, even nine months later.
The US EPA also finally began updating the documentation for the site on their own website, as they should have done months & years prior. Their abrupt diligence was assumably in response to me continuing to push fiercely on the matter.
Each additional release of documents, via FOIA and the website, have provided context and insight into what really happened last year. From documents released thus far, I’ve gathered:
April 2021: Despite me not informing Apple I was complaining about my office until summer of 2021, the EPA met with Apple in late April to tell Apple about my concerns. They had several meetings between April 28-30; which per their own emails, the meetings were to strategize about how to respond to me. (Note: Apple isn’t even party with the EPA on the building – Northrop Grumman is the responsible party and the state of California owns the building, Apple simply rents). Then, I had a meeting with my Senior Director on April 29 where he told me I should quit Apple, & after he started quietly giving my work away to random people in the organization. The US EPA rep I talked to, and who reached out to Apple to tell them I was blowing the whistle on them, apparently knew Lisa Jackson for many years, worked directly with Jackson at the US EPA, and suddenly stopped working at the US EPA in late 2021 (after nearly 20 years with the agency).
May 2021: Northrop Grumman & the US EPA had several meetings & exchanged numerous emails about my office based on my complaints, which led to EPA requesting extensive information from Northrop Grumman about the safety of the building, including details on vapor intrusion testing and mitigation. This was at the same time Apple was claiming there was nothing wrong with my office & assigned me a “five-point balancing test”1 to complete per thought, if I wanted to talk to my coworkers about any environmental or safety concerns. The EPA also informed Northrop that I was talking to the NYT and informed them of the reporter’s name who was asking the EPA questions about my office.
July 2021: In March 2022, Apple would submit a position statement to the US Dept of Labor claiming I was told in July 2021 that all EH&S work on my Superfund office was “routine” and “voluntary” and there was no reason Apple had to inform the EPA of any of it, so I was being “unreasonable” and I deserved no protection for my whistleblowing.
Also in July, the US EPA formally requested an onsite inspection of my Apple office. They sent the letter on July 26 and requested the inspection occur shortly after. They noted Apple’s environmental lawyer was on vacation that week & Northrop Grumman said they’d talk to her when she’s back on August 2nd. I was then suddenly suspended on August 4th, after I had been gathering evidence of the cracked floor on August 2nd-3rd and was preparing to go onsite to gather more evidence on August 5th. Apple mentioned none of this in their position statement, of course.
July-August 2021: Apple demanded the US EPA sign an extensive NDA before they would allow the EPA to come on site for the safety inspection. Among other problematic terms, the NDA declared anything the EPA learned during the inspection (assumably including safety issues) were “Apple Confidential” and the EPA could not make any public statements about the inspection without Apple’s permission. Apparently the EPA refused to sign Apple’s NDA and also complained to Northrop Grumman about Apple’s secrecy demands.
August 2021: On August 19 2021, the US EPA and Northrop Grumman conducted an onsite inspection of my Apple office and found a number of potential and actual issues: perhaps the most significant of which was that the toxic gases under the building were being piped *into* the HVAC that came out above our heads in the office. We were indeed exposed to toxic gases for years.
Apple would claim in 2022 that they fired me based on conduct that occurred (and Apple was made aware of) on August 28 and August 30 2021. Apple would never tell me this directly, even after they fired me. In fact, Apple still pretended like they were investigating my concerns, not me, in emails on September 3 & 7 2021.
I had also publicly filed: a NLRB charge on August 26; a US DOL whistleblower retaliation charge & complaint to the US EPA on August 29; and SEC Whistleblower tip on August 31 2021; among others. On September 3rd (Labor Day weekend), Apple got one of their blogs to write a smear article about my NLRB charge.
Sept 2021: Apple fired me on September 9 2021 and then on Sept 15, sent me harassing letters about secret videos they took of me and emails insisting on 3D scanning my ears.
Oct 2021: On October 7 2021, the EPA sent a written summary of the Aug 19 2021 site inspection to Northrop Grumman & asked for written comments within 30 days. The EPA asked for a report on the vapor intrusion mitigation system. The EPA also raised concerns about a number of the issues I had also raised to Apple prior (which Apple brushed off) including: testing the indoor air with HVAC off instead of on, documentation on the repair of the cracks in the floor, the need to identify missing “sub-slat vent ports,” and need to repair or decommission compromised ports. The EPA apparently also visited the site again at least on October 12 2021.
[Fast Forward] May 2022: The next year, the EPA denied Northrop’s proposed plan to fix the vapor intrusion mitigation system as inadequate. The EPA stated improvements to the vapor intrusion mitigation system are required. The EPA also said indoor air testing is required & still not conducted since 2016. The EPA had a consultant review Northrop’s plans for my office & he noted: “significant uncertainty,” “concentrated effluents” may indeed be pushed into HVAC, and a variety of indoor air testing is needed to design fix for the vapor intrusion mitigation system.
June 2022: This summer, with still no indoor air testing, and apparently my coworkers still working in our office subject to chemical exposure, Northrop Grumman wrote to the US EPA that they will only do “one round of indoor air sampling” and only want to do the same limited testing they did in 2016 (only 8hrs, etc). Northrop also noted Apple has to approve the timing & design of testing, and that Apple claims the TCE in the HVAC system is “Apple Confidential,” and that Apple doesn’t plan to fix the HVAC vents. Apparently Apple claims it would violate “local laws” to fix the vents currently spewing poison on my teammates.
July 2022: The EPA responded to Northrop Grumman noting they have now only agreed to do only part of the bare minimum requested. EPA told Northrop they can’t delay testing the toxic gases under the floor, and reminded Northrop that environmental science requires “multiple lines of evidence” so they would need to do more than one round of air testing.
There’s much more than this and you can review the documents directly on the links above, but this summary should give you a picture of what I’ve a discovered.
One thing I quickly learned about retaliation lawsuits is that the timeline is key. Lawyers always want to see the timeline of events, including: any protected activities, when the employer knew/must have known, and when adverse actions occurred. The crux is: an employee did something protected > the employer knew > the employer then did something materially bad to the employee > and the employer assumably did the bad thing because of the protected thing the employee did earlier.
I’d learn that sometimes suspicious timing and circumstances may be enough to prove retaliation. In addition, an employer’s deceit and omission of key information during litigation, or clear post-hoc rationalizations, may become further evidence against the employer and prove pretext.
Even before the FOIA documents came to light, the timeline & circumstances were already incredibly damning. With this new information, it became remarkably clear that Apple planned to deal with me extra-legally.
Apple must of bet all the harassment, intimidation, threats, corruption, & misery they were inflicting upon me would be enough to remove me from the equation, one way or another.
Then, only last week, I discovered a press release Apple themselves coordinated when I was suspended last year. Lisa Jackson invited the current head of the EPA (Michael Regan) to Apple Park the two days immediately prior to the inspection of my Superfund office. They’d talk to Axios and CNBC about the visit (even mentioning plans to privately discuss Apple’s mandatory environmental SEC disclosures), do a photo shoot, & record a video of a “fireside chat.”
I filed a complaint about all of this to the US EPA Office of Inspector General on July 20 2022 & have continued to update it after. I also filed FOIA requests for communications between Jackson and Regan about me and/or my office.3
The U.S. Department of Labor Whistleblower Protection Program
On August 29 2021, I filed a complaint with the US Department of Labor Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP) & made it public that I did so. I was actively in discussion with the investigator and providing evidence before I was fired. I provided copies of my other agency complaints (ie, US EPA & US SEC) on September 8 2021.
Already, one would think this would be a “slam-dunk” case with timing alone.
I had also filed complaints to the California Dept of Labor in August 2021, noting violations of state labor, and health & safety laws (like Prop 65).
On September 10 2021, the US Dept of Labor investigator notified me my US Dept of Labor charges would be “dual filed” with the state and would ask the state to take lead on investigating. When I asked the state why they would be investigating federal laws, they said it was a decision based on resourcing & that they are still separate cases.
It began to worry me why the federal government would ask an understaffed state labor department to investigate federal environmental and securities laws, so I followed up with the US Dept of Labor investigator asking about it again and ensuring my SEC & EPA complaints were included.
This was the first, and not last time, I’d see the US Dept of Labor’s dark side.
The investigator suddenly attempted to close my entire case without investigating or reviewing evidence, and without explanation. When I protested, she claimed it was a “decision from management.”
“After reviewing the information you’ve provided and consulting with my management team, it has been determined that your complaint does not meet the criteria for OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program (WPP) to open an investigation.” -US Dept of Labor (Nov 16 2021)
I immediately questioned the investigator why she had previously told me I had an open case and that it was referred to the state Dept of Labor, and that she herself had said my federal complaint would not be closed until after the state issues a decision.
The investigator then responded on November 22 2021 with some hot garbage: falsely claiming conflicts of interests with a corporate board of directors do not implicate SOX concerns; saying I have no CERCLA case because Apple told me my office was fine so there was no issue, even though I had a number of accurate and appropriate concerns about the plan of record, including Apple refusing to test the indoor air until after they fixed the cracks in the floor & refusing to tell the EPA about the cracks in the floor at all.
What the investigator said was Apple’s nonsense position, which the investigator apparently regurgitated without investigation. She said again she was dismissing the entire matter.
The investigator said I could appeal the decision to an ALJ, but implied if I request to appeal then Apple would be notified US DOL previously dismissed my case. I remember reading her email like it was a threat intending to intimidate me to not even appeal. Her wording implied I could save face if I just drop the matter completely.
At this point, I pointed out the inconsistencies & complained to investigator that I felt like I was being retaliated against by the US Dept of Labor itself.
I filed a FOIA request for any discussion about my case (which would return emails showing a “management decision” without investigation, to refer my case to the state of California, but still calling it “dual filing,” not dismissal).
The investigator then doubled back & told me I had 10 days to respond with more evidence. I ask for clarification on what evidence was needed, since the first round of evidence I sent was apparently not even reviewed. I received no response. I asked for clarification again & expressed more concerns. Still no response…and now the clock was ticking.
“I reported concerns of violations of CERCLA and SEC. Per the DOL library case law, I meet prima facie for multiple whistleblower statutes.YOU NOT RESPONDING TO ME FOR DAYS AND WAITING TO RUN OUT YOUR ARBITRARY STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR A RESPONSE IS OFFENSIVE.” -Nov 26 2021
I then received an “out of office” message from the investigator, saying she was on leave until Dec 1 2021, which was after the arbitrary deadline she gave me.
I then escalated to US Dept of Labor Solicitor Nanda & requested a new investigator. I pointed to a 2020-2021 US DOL OIG investigation into the program, noting excessive delays, incomplete investigations, and 98% of cases being dismissed for no reason.
“If you don’t find I meet the statutory requirements, that’s one thing. But not even investigating is completely unacceptable.” -Dec 1 2021
On Dec 8 2021, I received a letter from US Dept of Labor saying my case was just now referred to California Dept of Labor. The next day, Dec 9, I received a letter from the California Dept of Labor saying that the US Dept of Labor is now leading the investigation (the same case that US Dept of Labor previously claimed they were not, a week & day prior).
The state agency told me the federal agency also asked them to pause on investigating Apple’s violation of state laws, until the federal agency finishes their own investigation, citing preemption (somehow even for state laws with no federal counterparts like Prop 65, etc).4
On Dec 10 2021, my FOIA request returned with the emails acknowledging the dual filing back in September.5 That same day, the US Dept of Labor investigator notifies me she has now opened federal cases for OSHA, CERCLA, & SOX retaliation. The federal investigator claims that letter from California Dept of Labor, saying US Dept of Labor will investigate, was the original case that US Dept of Labor previously claimed they were not investigating. (If your head is spinning, it should be, they kept changing their stories every damn email).
But I read the letter & knew my persistence was working…
Over the next nine months, the US Dept of Labor would only provide me Apple’s first position statement, but no additional communications and no notice as to what evidence was provided against me. Meanwhile the federal investigator told me every single thing I sent her would also be sent to Apple, and even warned me against sending certain evidence (like reports to law enforcement or details of other federal investigations) because she said she would have to send them to Apple, but didn’t explain why.
I’d ask if any witnesses were ever interviewed, but never hear back. I asked for help to get documents from the US EPA more quickly, but US Dept of Labor would refuse. I’d ask for a referral to the US Dept of Justice for assistance with the home break-ins, hacking, and threats of violence – but US Dept of Labor would refuse. I’d ask for help with a retaliatory lawsuit admittedly filed in response to my federal charges against Apple – but again, US Dept of Labor refused.
I asked US Dept of Labor to investigate Apple’s clearly unlawful employee policies, (as US NLRB was also investigating them and they could be used to substantiate punitive damages in my OSHA whistleblower charge), but US Dept of Labor refused.
I told US Dept of Labor that the US SEC had started investigating. US Dept of Labor told me not to tell them about it. I questioned them, asking if US SEC might pursue a Dodd Frank whistleblower case through the US DOJ for my termination so closely following the public filing of a SEC whistleblower tip, how would that not be relevant to my SOX whistleblower case? The US DOL never responded.
I expressed concerns that Apple lied to US Dept of Labor in their position statement about my office, completely omitting the safety inspections, the safety issues, and the ordered corrective actions. The investigator never responded.
I expressed concerns about a potential conflict of interest with OSHA administrator Douglas Parker (who oversees the entire US DOL whistleblower program) with Lisa Jackson (previous US EPA administrator now running Apple lobbying), since Parker ran federal Mining Safety while Jackson ran the US EPA – but the investigator never responded.
I sent the investigator my EPA OIG complaint – she never responded.
I complained about how long it was taking to process my case. The statutes said they should have completed an investigation in 30 days for CERCLA, 60 days for SOX, and 90 days for OSHA. We were over a year now.
The investigator told me I could “kick-out” all of my charges & sue Apple myself in a federal court, instead of going through an agency. (Note: beyond the insanity of suggesting a pro se employee sue the most profitable corporation in the world in a highly complicated and expensive legal setting – the investigator’s advice was also incorrect). In reality, I could kick-out my SOX claim, but the statutes expressly forbid any kick-out of OSHA or CERCLA. I told her this and she agreed that if I had listened to her and withdrew my charges, I would have forfeited my OSHA & CERCLA cases completely.
I complained more about the delays. I told her even if I could manage a SOX whistleblower case in a federal district court myself, it was poor legal strategy to separate that case from the CERCLA & OSHA cases. The investigator then told me I could ask to close the agency investigation now and bring the results to an ALJ to review. I questioned her why I’d stop an in progress investigation, without being told what evidence was gathered or reviewed, or if any witnesses were even interviewed. I’d be requesting findings on an incomplete investigation and already biased investigation, which sounded like it would be highly favorable to Apple. I also told her Apple would use it as a justification to further claim my charges were “meritless,” etc. She did not disagree.
I asked for ways to simplify my case & allegations to speed things up. I asked several times. I said I was willing to drop certain claims if it would expedite the process. The investigator never responded.
I told the investigator I won my California unemployment appeal and an Administrative Law Judge found that Apple’s termination of my employment was based on something other than misconduct by me. The ALJ ordered I be paid state unemployment insurance (paid by Apple). I attached the three-page court order to my email. The US Dept of Labor investigator simply said “received.”
On September 6 2022, I again requested status on my DOL cases. I told the investigator that because I’ve discovered so much corruption with the US NLRB & US EPA, at this point I have to assume the delays and poor communication with my US Dept of Labor case must also be signs of corruption.
She did not respond by Sept 12 2022, so I send another email asking for the name of someone in US Dept of Labor I could escalate to. Still no response. On Sept 14 2022, I pointed out the delays in my cases are violating US Dept of Labor’s own statutes. I also point out I just discovered a whistleblower from the US Dept of Labor’s own whistleblower program, who was based in the Regional Office my case is in, who claims he was fired by US Dept of Labor in retaliation for complaining about corruption in the whistleblower program. I told her I’m going to file an OIG complaint about my case.
The US Dept of Labor investigator then responded just a few hours later! She said a supervisor will be in touch shortly to set up a phone call. The supervisor reached out the next day, Sept 15 2022, asking to set up a conference call with me and one other supervisor on Sept 16 2022.
I quickly responded to schedule the call and asked who the other supervisor was: she says its the Assistant Administrator for Region IX. (I look him up, he’s a naval captain specializing in “surface warfare” and “Seabee combat”). Cool.
The September 16 2022 US Dept of Labor meeting was one of the craziest things to happen to me through all of this. From starting with aggressive demands to “not record the meeting,” (despite me not even asking to do so), to ending with the captain telling me that even though my cases were still under investigation, that I should expect to have them dismissed in roughly six weeks… it quickly became clear the sole purpose of the meeting was to intimidate me into withdrawing my charges.
I was told I would not be informed of any evidence provided against me. I was told any misconduct with my cases were my own fault. I was told they investigated themselves and found no policy violations. They said my case will not be transferred. He wrapped up by saying “I believe I’ve now addressed all of your concerns.”
I can understand how a reasonable person who had been fired by their powerful employer in retaliation for raising concerns about violations of federal laws, might be intimidated by that conversation to the point of spending those next six weeks worrying about publicly losing their lawsuit and facing further defamation and shaming, which could result in them withdrawing their charges instead & claiming they simply decided to move on with their life.
Unfortunately for the US Department of Labor & for Apple, I’m not a reasonable person.
At the end of the call I told them both I had no idea what the point of the call was other than to intimidate me, they addressed none of my concerns, gave me new concerns, and I will be reporting all of it.
I wrote up notes & emailed them to the supervisors, expressing grave concerns. I told them I’d add the matter to my OIG complaint & I cc’d Solicitor Nanda. I said I’d appeal my case all the way to ARB if necessary.
When I published Part I earlier this year, I never expected to have a Part II even more scandalous than the first… but here we are.
Next up will be Part III, where I’ll discuss the violence I’ve faced since speaking out, including: multiple home break-ins, unlawful surveillance, & online threats & harassment. I’ll review the FBI SF Regional Office’s public statements praising Apple & discuss Apple’s chokehold over local, state, & federal law enforcement.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
1. Apple Employee Relation’s five-point balancing test for employees interested in discussing environmental & safety matters: the communicated information must be 1) complete 2) accurate 3) does not cause a panic 4) does not make an assessment about safety 5) any follow up questions or concerns are sent directly to Apple EH&S or Employee Relations and not discussed with me or other coworkers
3. US EPA FOIA EPA-2022-006433 & EPA-2022-006434
4. CA DOL DIR Case RCI-CM-842830
5. US DOL FOIA # 2022-F-0177