Four days after he went public with allegations of anti-Semitism in the U.S. Postal Service's Petaluma office, George Kaufman was suspended for unacceptable conduct.
Kaufman is charged with impeding postal efficiency and disrupting the normal flow of operations. He doesn't think the timing is coincidental.
"I got my reward," for trying to do the right thing, said Kaufman, a custodial laborer at the North Bay Processing and Distribution Center.
Kaufman's story appeared in the May 10 Jewish Bulletin. He claimed he had made numerous verbal complaints to his superiors about anti-Semitic incidents but that nothing was done.
He finally lodged a formal complaint in January, which the Equal Employment Opportunity office of the U.S. Postal Service is investigating and the Anti-Defamation League is also watching the case but has not taken any official action.
Meanwhile, from June 1 to 8, Kaufman will be out of work without pay.
The suspension notice, written by maintenance operations supervisor Frank Warner, says Kaufman's complaints — one lodged on Jan. 17 in writing, a second on Jan. 22 during an investigative interview — are contradictory, as are his statements made during investigative interviews on March 15 and 19.
According to Warner's dismissal notice, on Jan. 17 Kaufman said he had found a photograph of a cake decorated with a swastika taped to a co-worker's cubbyhole in the maintenance shop. On Jan. 22, Kaufman said he had "no prior knowledge of the cake and did not tape it" up. A co-worker's statement contradicts Kaufman's claim.
Furthermore, Warner contends that on March 15 Kaufman admitted to going through a co-worker's cubbyhole to find the swastika cake photo. And during an investigative interview conducted by an EEO counselor investigator on March 19, he admitted posting the cake photo.
Warner writes: "Your unacceptable conduct of providing a false statement to `get back at another employee' resulted in disruption of normal postal operations, and it impeded Postal Service efficiency and economy."
In suspending Kaufman, the supervisor cites a federal conduct code that prohibits postal employees from any action "which may result in or create the appearance of impeding Postal Service efficiency or economy."
The code also specifies guidelines for employee behavior, saying they are "expected to conduct themselves during and outside of working hours in a manner which reflects favorable upon the Postal Service."
Kaufman denies the charges, calling them "inaccurate." He is appealing his suspension and has hired a lawyer.
"I made a few misstatements originally, which I didn't deny when I was confronted," Kaufman said of his confusing dates in his original complaint. However, "they rewrote history."
Warner did not return repeated phone calls from the Bulletin regarding the suspension or investigation. According to Larry Dozier, a spokesman for the office of the U.S. Postal Service in San Francisco, the investigation is not yet complete.
Kaufman, meanwhile, claims his suspension is "a case of shoot the victim. They must have gotten unfavorable reaction [to the Bulletin article] and this [the suspension] is a knee-jerk" reaction.