Ex-director accuses iRobot of firing him for pointing out the home-cleaner droids broke safety, govt regulations

Bloke takes auto-vac firm to court in wrongful termination gripe


A former iRobot employee is suing the manufacturer for firing him after he highlighted alleged failures to comply with regulations.

Janusz Pankowski claims the robo-vac specialists unfairly dismissed him from his position as director for compliance back in May 2018 following a row over whether products were erroneously labeled as being in compliance with safety requirements, and other state, federal, and international rules.

To hear Pankowski tell it to a US district court in Massachusetts this week, the executive's trouble started in January that year when he brought up 14 instances where iRobot's gear had been affixed with labels claiming it to be in compliance with requirements despite failing to meet them.

"Before Pankowski joined iRobot, iRobot was found to have violated California Energy Commission regulations related to its battery chargers," the complaint [PDF] stated. "Despite this violation, iRobot continued to sell non-compliant battery chargers which exposed the company to a multimillion dollar penalty for its second offence."

Fearing further legal problems for the gizmo maker, Pankowski said he raised the issue with various members of iRobot's operations team to no avail.

In the following months, the complaint alleged, Pankowski uncovered a number of compliance problems, including a failure to pay internet sales taxes in the EU, failing to adhere to Russian data encryption laws, and failing to adhere to German labeling standards.

The case is not, however, so cut and dry. All this time, there was no reported shortage of infighting between Pankowski, his department, and members of the operations team, to the point where human resources had to get involved. The complaint noted that, as the internal compliance probes were ongoing, an operations team member accused him of inappropriate conduct and, as part of the investigation, he was asked to write a letter of apology.

These confrontations and claims, it is alleged, were used by iRobot for the basis of its decision to fire Pankowski in May. He, however, claimed that the whole thing was an effort to suppress the company's inability to meet its compliance requirements.

"Pankowski's employment was terminated because he refused to prohibit further illegal action or to rectify illegal action that had already taken place," the complaint reads. "His termination was in violation of public policy."

iRobot, for its part, provided the following statement to The Register:

iRobot takes the compliance of its products very seriously, and they meet all necessary state, federal and international requirements. iRobot strongly opposes Mr Pankowksi's claims and will defend itself vigorously. As this is an ongoing legal matter, iRobot cannot provide further comment at this time.

The case, filed in a Massachusetts state court, has since been assigned to a US district court judge. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Microsoft Azure to spin up AMD MI200 GPU clusters for 'large scale' AI training
    Windows giant carries a PyTorch for chip designer and its rival Nvidia

    Microsoft Build Microsoft Azure on Thursday revealed it will use AMD's top-tier MI200 Instinct GPUs to perform “large-scale” AI training in the cloud.

    “Azure will be the first public cloud to deploy clusters of AMD's flagship MI200 GPUs for large-scale AI training,” Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott said during the company’s Build conference this week. “We've already started testing these clusters using some of our own AI workloads with great performance.”

    AMD launched its MI200-series GPUs at its Accelerated Datacenter event last fall. The GPUs are based on AMD’s CDNA2 architecture and pack 58 billion transistors and up to 128GB of high-bandwidth memory into a dual-die package.

    Continue reading
  • New York City rips out last city-owned public payphones
    Y'know, those large cellphones fixed in place that you share with everyone and have to put coins in. Y'know, those metal disks representing...

    New York City this week ripped out its last municipally-owned payphones from Times Square to make room for Wi-Fi kiosks from city infrastructure project LinkNYC.

    "NYC's last free-standing payphones were removed today; they'll be replaced with a Link, boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city," LinkNYC said via Twitter.

    Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said, "Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access!"

    Continue reading
  • Cheers ransomware hits VMware ESXi systems
    Now we can say extortionware has jumped the shark

    Another ransomware strain is targeting VMware ESXi servers, which have been the focus of extortionists and other miscreants in recent months.

    ESXi, a bare-metal hypervisor used by a broad range of organizations throughout the world, has become the target of such ransomware families as LockBit, Hive, and RansomEXX. The ubiquitous use of the technology, and the size of some companies that use it has made it an efficient way for crooks to infect large numbers of virtualized systems and connected devices and equipment, according to researchers with Trend Micro.

    "ESXi is widely used in enterprise settings for server virtualization," Trend Micro noted in a write-up this week. "It is therefore a popular target for ransomware attacks … Compromising ESXi servers has been a scheme used by some notorious cybercriminal groups because it is a means to swiftly spread the ransomware to many devices."

    Continue reading
  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022