Sabre Rattled – Y’All Come Back Now

February 11, 2010 - by: Doug Hall 6 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $2,500 for Meredith’s workers’ comp claim (those paper cuts can sting!) and more grist for the mill for potential future claims.

Tonight’s episode has the Scranton office continuing to deal with Dunder Mifflin’s acquisition by Sabre International. This time, it is the arrival of Sabre’s colorful president, Jo Bennett, and her two rather large dogs. Much of the episode focuses on the duel between Michael and Jim, as Mrs. (not Ms.) Bennett decides there is no reason to have co-Regional Managers at the branch (which shows already that she is more astute than Dunder Mifflin’s prior management). What starts as a battle to retain the manager’s role ends up being a contest to return to sales, as they realize they can do much better financially under Sabre’s policies as a salesman. At the end of the day, Michael ends up back in the manager’s role while Jim ends up where he belongs, in sales, doing battle with Dwight.

Although the contest between Michael and Jim doesn’t involve potential liability to the company, it points out the issues that can arise when rank-and-file employees earn more than their managers, including a disincentive for the best employees to move into managerial roles. And Dwight and Ryan could be exposing themselves, if not the company, to possible claims arising out of their conversation with Nick the IT guy — Dwight’s false potentially defamatory statement that Jim is under criminal investigation for “molesting people via the Internet” and Ryan’s threat of physical violence if Nick doesn’t turn over Jim’s computer password.

The secondary plot, involving Andy’s distribution of Valentine’s Day cards to the office, is more problematic. (And for those of you looking for that special gift for that special guy, don’t forget Roger Federer for Men!) There is always the chance that an intra-office romantic gesture like a Valentine’s Day card will be viewed as unwanted or downright creepy by the recipient, providing fodder for a sexual harassment allegation. At a minimum, as Kelly’s reaction to her card shows, there is a chance that the gesture will be misconstrued, leading to hurt feelings (and thus a potential claim for infliction of emotional distress). Here, at least, there was no evidence of anything inappropriate in the cards, and distributing them to the entire office (male and female) likely blunted any argument that they were intended to harass anyone in particular. However, Andy’s cavalier method of distributing the cards ended up slicing Meredith’s neck, thereby giving rise to a workers’ compensation claim (she should be old hat at filing those by now, after being hit by Michael’s car, having her hair set on fire, and being dragged against her will to a rehab facility). If anyone ends up with a plausible claim for sexual harassment, it is Andy himself, who ends up being unwillingly kissed by Kelly, followed by a cringe-worthy exchange with Meredith involving “doing it” in the bathroom (not to mention the numerous canine violations of his crotch).

Finally, we have the assault on Michael’s sense of smell as a result of Phyllis’ gassy reaction to her new allergy medication.  Phyllis’ other co-workers seemed to be fine with this (she sent an e-mail, after all), and Michael ends up back in his sweet-smelling office, so all’s well that ends well. But situations where employees express distaste for another employee’s odor can get tricky, particularly if — as here — the smell is related to the employee’s medical condition.

Thanks for reading. After digging out of all the snow we’ve gotten here in the DC area, I think I deserve to kick back with a tall glass of beet vodka. Skoal!

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6 COMMENTS

1 Joe
15:35:44, 13/02/10

Thanks for posting the episode! I got stuck working late on Thursday and missed it!

2 Danielle Greer
01:19:25, 20/02/10

Very interesting! I was with you every step of the way. Keep these posts coming… please

3 ACU Frank
16:27:31, 23/02/10

While it is often a problem when the best employees aren’t motivated to “move up”, that is rarely the case in sales. Let’s face it – Michael’s legendary sales abilities were NOT an indicator of his management potential. In the long run, his promotion to management probably cost Dunder Mifflin a LOT of money in lost sales. In the real world, it would have cost them a lot in civil judgments as well.

4 Doug Hall
16:00:39, 04/03/10

ACU Frank, good point about sales generally – and Michael in particulr – being the exception to the rule. His situation is better analogized to the Peter Principle, where one is promoted to one’s level of incompetence! Can’t wait for the baby episode tonight!

5 Doug Hall
16:02:17, 04/03/10

Thanks for the kind words, Danielle. Hope you enjoy reading these as much as we enjoy writing them. Tune in tomorrow for our coverage of the baby issue – my colleague Chris Butler will be penning that one (if penning is still an appropriate verb to use when one is really using a keyboard).

6 Doug Hall
16:03:01, 04/03/10

Joe, I hate when that happens! Don’t know how I lived before DVR! Hope you get home in time for tonight’s episode.

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