Litigation Value: $50,000 (per Buffalo branch employee); $200,000 for various hostile work environment claims.
“Company Picnic,” the season’s final episode, was a good one. Unfortunately, that also means that Dunder Mifflin is on the hook for several claims from some of its employees.
One might think that the wrongful conduct took place at the volleyball tournament. And while the conduct of many Dunder Mifflin-ers –- especially management –- was out of line at the volleyball tournament, there wasn’t anything actionable that occurred there (assuming Phyllis and Pam weren’t actually injured). The hostility, the near injuries, and the plain old dirtiness of Charles Minor and David Wallace sending Pam to the hospital just to get her out of the game . . . it was all not very nice, but none of it was enough to hold the company liable in court.
The more problematic conduct occurred during Michael’s and Holly’s sketch. Although forcing people to watch bad comedy isn’t actionable (thankfully, otherwise Lorne Michaels would be in jail), telling the Buffalo branch that they were being laid off in front of their families at a company picnic via the comedy stylings of Michael Scott might just be enough to hold the company liable for negligent or even intentional infliction of emotional distress.
As usual, Dunder Mifflin also could be held liable for creating a hostile work environment. Between Dwight’s friend Rolph and his potty mouth, Michael’s threats to Holly’s boyfriend, and most importantly Michael’s and Holly’s racially inappropriate Slum Dunder Mifflinaire jokes, several employees certainly could bring claims against the company.
On a positive note, at least Michael was at peace with his love for Holly; Jim and Pam got the good news that they were expecting; and Toby found a fellow HR low-talker to befriend. And the company can use the next few months off to pay off these claims so it can start fresh next fall.
Check back with us every week this summer. Even though the writers of The Office get some time off, we’ll be here blogging about issues we couldn’t squeeze in during the season, and other things that deserve our attention.