Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

February 13, 2009 - by: Dominic Verstegen 3 COMMENTS

Employment law attorney Dominic Verstegen discusses Dunder Mifflin’s liability for its employees’ actions when Michael, Dwight, Kevin, and Oscar all cross the line and invade the privacy of their coworkers on the “Lecture Circuit, Part II” episode of The Office.

Litigation Value: $45,000

On the “Lecture Circuit, Part II” episode of The Office, there were at least a couple of incidents that could lead to a claim for invasion of privacy being made against Dunder Mifflin. Although Dwight’s conduct was the most egregious, Michael’s wasn’t much better. And even Kevin and Oscar need to use better judgment.

First, Dwight. As we found out late during the last episode, Dwight dug through Kelly’s file and found out that she went to “juvie” when she was 14. During this episode, we find Dwight interrogating Kelly, asking her what she did.  This is exactly the kind of outrageous conduct that could lead to a claim for invasion of privacy.  On the bright side, Kelly got a cake and a nap — and I would estimate a $30,000 verdict — for her troubles.

Over in Nashua, Michael joined in on the fun by snooping around Holly’s computer. Even though employees generally don’t have much of a right to privacy on their work computer, Michael’s unauthorized spying on Holly might just be enough to give her a claim for invasion of privacy. We’ll estimate a settlement value of $15,000.

Lastly, Oscar and Kevin watched Angela’s online kitty cam to spy on Angela while she was home licking her cats. This raises some hairy issues. Since the web stream of the kitty cam was on Angela’s computer, however, her claim for invasion of privacy isn’t the best.  Plus, juries don’t normally have a lot of sympathy for cat-licking ice queens.

I suppose it’s hard to imagine anyone at an office where they’ve had cameras following them around for five years complain that their privacy rights have been violated.  But even in TV land, Michael and Dwight went too far this time.

Bookmark and Share Send to a Colleague


1 ACU Frank
11:14:05, 16/02/09

I know we typically stick to civil claims here, but several episodes are rich with potential criminal complaints – this one included. Michael has engaged in a lot of criminal activity over the years, and cutting the sleeve off Holly’s sweater is a stalking charge waiting to happen. Sure, it may seem minor compared to his repeated kidnapping offenses, but juries HATE stalkers.

2 Dominic Verstegen
10:54:27, 17/02/09

Frank raises a good point – we only talk about civil claims in this blog and there surely have been times when some of the folks at Dunder Mifflin committed crimes.

I’m not sure Michael’s actions in this episode were enough to satisfy the elements of a stalking claim in New Hampshire (would Holly have been in fear for her personal safety? Maybe – but we are talking about Michael Scott here), but I can think of a dozen assault or battery situations that have happened over the years. I can also think of a false imprisonment incident, and a near homicide (Michael hitting Meredith with his car).

I’m sure the list could go on and on – I haven’t even talked about Creed. Frank is right – Ryan isn’t the only one at DM who engaged in criminal conduct.

3 Sean
15:20:38, 29/03/09

Her complete name is Holly Flax–just for the record…

Leave a Reply