Karen “Kay Sea” Skau is a single mother of two adult children, Zachary (23) and Colby (21) who was living in Vermont. She had applied for a job at JK Adams in Dorset—makers of kitchen cutting boards and serving trays and sellers of a wide variety of assorted kitchen accouterments—and was hired just before Thanksgiving in November of 2020. Having survived a physically abusive marriage and stage four endometriosis—which required multiple surgeries and left her unable to work—she was proud to finally be standing on her own two feet.
“This was my first job after 10 years so it was a huge deal to me,” Skau told The Epoch Times. “As a mother of two, going back into the workforce after a horrible illness, was a big deal to me. I had just gotten my first apartment by myself because I was going through a divorce so this was a huge step toward independence. My marriage was extremely abusive so it took a long time for me to get over all of that and to build myself up with my confidence and everything.”
Skau loved her new job. She said the company was large enough to where there was a good number of people but still small enough where “you had that sense of family.” She worked in shipping and receiving, which she described as “very physical work.” But she didn’t mind.
“When I work I work,” Skau said. “I love to work. I’m a hard worker.”
In a very short time, Skau even earned a raise. However, it wasn’t long before office politics began to cast a shadow on her contentment.
“People weren’t super nice to me because I wasn’t from Vermont,” Skau recalled. “If you’re not born there they discriminate against you.”
As Vermont is a solid blue state, her native co-workers also took umbrage with her political views.
“They knew I was conservative,” Skau said. “I didn’t hide it but I also didn’t shove it in their faces, and they knew how I felt about masks and that stuff.”
As an employee of JK Adams, Skau described how she was required to answer health questions every morning before being allowed to enter the factory. Once inside, she said “someone who is not qualified” would take her temperature “with a thermometer that was completely inaccurate every time.”
“Some days I was told my temperature was like 94 degrees and I would look at them and say ‘you know that’s hypothermia right?’” Skau said, “and they’d say, ‘no, that’s okay. You’re alright.’ It was all smoke and mirrors.”
Because of the physical demands of her job, Skau chose to wear a neck gaiter form of mask as the thin cloth was less restrictive on her breathing. When she entered the factory she would wear the mask just over her mouth. When she got to my station and no one was around she would pull it completely down.
“I’m not going to breathe in my own germs all day,” she said. “It’s super physical and you’re sweating all day.”
Even though many of her coworkers did the same thing, Skau said she was subjected to daily commentary and ridicule because she wasn’t following the mask rules. Then came the pressure to get vaccinated.
Even though Skau had never said out loud she was not vaccinated, she believes they assumed she wasn’t because they knew she’s conservative. According to Skau, there was only one other woman in the factory who had not been vaccinated and the others pressured the two of them daily, reminding them they would not be able to go anywhere without getting a vaccine passport.
“It was like every day they would give me their passive-aggressive comments,” Skau recalled. “Even people like my boss were making comments around me and it was so obvious and I started dreading going into work because I was getting so sick of the comments. But it didn’t matter what they said, they weren’t going to bully me into something I don’t believe in.”
While the daily gossip, comments, and snubbing made it clear her coworkers did not approve of her positions on masks and vaccination status, Skau believes it was her position as a conservative and the activities she was involved in outside of the workplace that irritated them the most.
In fact, Skau believes it was her support of conservative principles, and not her vaccination status, that ultimately led to her termination.
As it turns out, Skau had been assaulted after attending a Vermont Liberty rally held at the Vermont State House on May 15. After having been struck twice in the face with an open hand, and again with a folded political sign and then pepper-sprayed in the eyes—Skau stayed home the following Monday to recover from her injuries. A local news outlet had covered the incident.
As she recuperated at home, Skau received word of an email. The email, obtained exclusively by The Epoch Times, was sent to “All Employees” by JK Adams Chief Executive Officer Daniel Isaac.
In the email, Isaac said that, while Vermont Gov. Phil Scott had “relaxed the mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals,” JK Adams “decided to remain precautious before making any final decision.” Therefore management was now asking all “fully vaccinated” employees to “show us your vaccination card.”
“This is not required but enables us to determine if we here at JKA have herd immunity,” Isaac assured. “This information will be confidential and used only for statistical purposes. You can see Mary or Lisa with your vaccination card, and they will make note of the dates. Again, this information will be kept confidential.”
Despite reminding employees that the governor had “relaxed the mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals,” Isaac informed “all employees” that “here at JKA you must continue to wear your mask.”
While the email implied the request was not mandatory, Skau said “the pressure was there” and for her, the request itself was “the line in the sand.”
“I wasn’t doing this. I wasn’t going down that road. I wasn’t playing their games anymore. When they start asking people for vaccine information, I have a problem with that.”
Despite her fears, Skau went to work on the morning of May 18, knowing she would be forced to make a stand. She went in without answering the required daily health questions and bypassed getting her inaccurate temperature taken and, while they didn’t seem to notice for a while, it wasn’t long before the supervisor came by “wearing his double masks” and telling her he had to take her temperature.
She told him she wasn’t doing that today and she remained at her station and kept working. Soon after, the higher ranking manager called Skau into his office asking “what’s going on?”
Skau told him it wasn’t right that they were demanding vaccine information and that she wasn’t willing to comply anymore. She told him he knew the masks didn’t work and that none of this was right and she reminded him of how many times he had told her she was one of the best workers he had. She told him she was willing to work, but she was not going to give him any health information as she didn’t believe it was any of his business.
After the discussion, Skau went back to her station. Three hours later, she was called to the office of Daniel Isaac, the chief executive officer for JK Adams.
“He basically gave me a long lecture telling me how he was disappointed in me and this was how it has to be,” Skau said.
She told him her health information was none of his business.
It was then that Isaac handed Skau a piece of paper.
“On May 18, 2021,” the curiously predated statement began, “Karen Skau refused to comply with JK Adams mask wearing policy as directed by the state of Vermont Executive Order No. 01-20. This is agreeing to this statement,” the form concluded above the signature line, “not admitting any wrong doing.”
After refusing to sign the form, Skau was summarily fired. Upon returning home, Skau immediately filed for unemployment. For three months she was assured by the unemployment office that everything was fine, until two weeks ago, when she was informed her benefits were being declined.
“They said you don’t qualify because it was your fault you got fired,” Skau said. “So, because I stood up against the vaccine mandate, they aren’t going to give me unemployment.
“That’s why I’m in Florida now,” Skau said.
In an effort to pay rent, Skau said she was forced to find menial jobs that were “off the books.” But she eventually lost her apartment. Then her car broke down. Finding herself homeless and without transportation, Skau fled to Florida where she and her two cats are now living in a bedroom at her boyfriend’s mother’s house, “all because of this.”
“This was my chance in life, to get on my own and live independently,” Skau lamented. “You know, I did my job to the best of my ability and they kept telling me how good I was doing at my job. So it wasn’t because I was a bad employee. It was simply because I stood up to this vaccine thing and said, no more.”
The Epoch Times reached out multiple times to Isaac for a statement but was told “JK Adams Company Inc. does not comment on personnel matters, or internal policies and procedures.”