“The Coup” Revisited

June 01, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $65,000 (but could have been much more)

Having Dwight stand on his desk with the word “liar” hanging from his neck is not what I would consider the most effective method of employee discipline. Nor was tricking him into believing that he got Michael fired. But, without more, Michael’s actions may not be considered to be “utterly intolerable to a civilized community” and, thus, are not actionable in a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

What could be more extreme you ask? Well, after digging around I found some examples. In one case, an Alabama manager allegedly required his employee to keep seeing a management consultant for “training” after learning that the consultant would hypnotize the employee and then ask her to remove her shirt and answer questions of a sexual nature. In another case, a Washington dentist tormented an employee, who routinely regaled the office with stories of her pet pot bellied pig named Walter, by implanting tusks as a temporary dental apparatus while the employee was under anesthesia and then gathering the other employees around to take pictures. The employee didn’t think it was nearly as funny and sued him. In retrospect, maybe Michael’s conduct wasn’t so bad after all….

Not surprisingly, I can’t find a reported verdict for either of these cases. My guess is that both of them settled out of court. Dunder Mifflin should probably follow their lead.

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1 ACU Frank
11:59:12, 01/06/07

Oddly, I’ve always regarded “The Coup” as Michael’s finest hour as a manager. Dwight’s behavior was utterly inappropriate, and Michael punished him. What makes this situation unusual is that Michael’s reaction was NOT terribly distressful to the rest of the employees. Typically, when Michael flips the switch and goes into “uber manager” mode, there is a lot of collateral damage. Not this time.

2 Ian Wallace
19:08:32, 01/06/07

I’ve loved reading this blog after each episode of The Office this past season, and I look forward to your continued summer format. Thanks, Julie – rock on!

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