Baby, Baby, Please

March 05, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much.

With collective attentions devoted almost entirely to the miracle of childbirth, the Scranton branch didn’t leave us much to work with tonight. Whereas Dwight Schrute’s senseless destruction of Jim and Pam Halpert’s kitchen cabinetry exposes him to a cornucopia of civil and criminal liabilities in his own right, it’s unlikely that his misconduct would be attributable to Dunder Mifflin.

Indeed, Dunder Mifflin got off light this week. Were it not for the fact that Michael Scott’s systematically inappropriate behavior has become the norm -– considerably lowering the bar and desensitizing the work environment -– his rather unhealthy interest in Pam’s pregnancy might otherwise expose Dunder Mifflin and himself to a rare, but potentially fatal, harassment-based-on-pregnancy claim. Of course, in order to prove pregnancy harassment, Pam would have to show that she was both subjectively and objectively offended by Michael’s repeated references to, and his actions based on, her pregnancy; and that they were pervasive enough to interfere with her ability to perform her job or to otherwise create a hostile work environment. Inasmuch as Michael means well, and Pam doesn’t appear to be overly offended by his innocuous behavior, it’s doubtful this variation of a sex/pregnancy discrimination theory would hold up in court.

On the other hand, what just might hold up is Michael’s forced “romantic” interlude between Kevin Malone and Erin Hannon; and that’s putting it nicely. The unlikely union aside, a smart lawyer might be able to craft gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress claims on the theory that Michael, as a member of management, abused his supervisory authority to pressure a female subordinate to have a romantic relationship with a male co-worker (one roughly four times her size!). Even if Michael and Dunder Mifflin escaped liability, it’s simply a bad idea for a manager to arrange, much less suggest, a hook-up between employees.

And, Jim and Pam, it’s probably best to keep that mistaken-baby-feeding story on the down-low . . . .

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1 Tony Kessler
07:40:17, 05/03/10

Chris, what about Dwight’s and Angela’s negotiations for her to bear his child (so, like the Halperts, he will have a kid to talk about when he’s selling paper to his clients) — is there any potential liability for Dunder Mifflin? At the moment, Angela seems like a willing and able negotiator. But if she leaves in the clause that requires her to deliver a boy and not a girl, it seems like this thing has a 50/50 chance of going awry! If that happens, will the employer be on the hook for formula, diapers, college tuition, etc.? Would the courts finally help us figure out just how much supervisory authority Dwight actually yields?!? Terrific episode. tk

2 Chris Butler
11:31:16, 05/03/10

Tony — As bizarre (and unenforceable) as the baby contract may be, I don’t see any immediate liability to Dunder Mifflin. Angela was clearly a willing participant and the arrangement doesn’t appear to have any connection to the workplace, aside from the fact that it was initially conceived inside a utility closet (the contract, not the baby). Good point, though.

3 Joe
01:09:27, 08/03/10

It’s just further evidence that Michael is delusional that he thinks Pam and Jim getting together was at all by his efforts.

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