Parks and relationships

October 18, 2013 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

As an avid Parks and Recreation fan, I cannot help but love the chemistry between newlyweds Leslie Knope and Ben Wyatt. Long before they were joining their dysfunctional families via a wedding with a punch heard round the world and a unity quilt (complete with a patch dedicated to waffles, of course), these two were navigating the complicated minefield of an office romance. Like a number of employers, the fictional City of Pawnee had enacted a policy against workplace dating, which posed a serious obstacle for Leslie and Ben’s budding romance.  Clearly this story had a happy ending for the two lovebirds, but unfortunately that is not always the case in the real world where workplace romances all too often lead to messy litigation.

While there are countless cases of one party to a soured office romance later accusing a coworker of sexual harassment and denying that the relationship was ever consensual (particularly where the accused had supervisory authority over the accuser), there are also cases of non-parties to the romance attempting to file suit under a variety of creative theories. For example, in a case out of Texas, two employees entered into an extramarital affair. Their spouses decided to sue the company for negligently interfering in their familial relationships by failing to take action to prevent the affair. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in favor of the employer and helped establish that employers generally aren’t liable for failing to prevent office liaisons.

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Retaliation is Reality TV

September 08, 2013 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

I think it’s safe to say that now, in 2013, we as a society are overrun by reality TV.

The Truman Show starring Jim Carey debuted in 1998. In case you have forgotten, that was the movie where the whole world watched one man’s every move on a daily basis, from brushing his teeth to mowing the lawn to sleeping. While it’s hard to imagine a creepier plot line for a show, that’s pretty much all that’s on TV nowadays. Well, that and . . . CSI [insert your city here]. YEEEEEEAAAAHHHHH! (We miss you, Horatio Caine.) 

So it should come as no surprise that the ubiquitous genre of reality TV lends itself to the occasional employment law lesson. And today’s lesson comes from that epic engineer of entertainment–A&E–and its hit show Storage Wars. The show follows professional buyers who purchase the contents of storage lockers based only on a five-minute inspection of what they can see from the door when it is open. The goal is to turn a profit on the merchandise. (And you thought your college degree meant something.)

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Skeevy TV raises harassment threshold for sitcom writers

August 12, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 1 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Law school will ruin your life in so many ways.

I used to watch television in a state of blissful ignorance. Holes in the plot? Didn’t notice. Inconsistent character behavior week to week? Didn’t care. Offensive, sexually charged dialogue? Didn’t mind at all.

Then I became a lawyer, and now my clients are employers who do mind that last kind of thing when it happens in their conference rooms, around their water coolers, or wherever else their employees congregate to ogle one another. Sexual harassment is a serious thing, the public loves salacious stories, and juries love to punish the wallets of companies that permit drooling, predatory managers to roam the hallways. When the boss whispers all sorts of naughty things to his secretary, it’s a lawsuit. When he does it on my Sony HD during prime time, it’s entertainment!

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