Litigation Value: $50,000 or so, depending on how much harm comes out of an essentially unsupervised holiday party
It is the annual Christmas episode of The Office, and it’s bittersweet as Jim and Pam talk about how this will be the last Christmas party for the both of them at Dunder Mifflin Scranton–much like it will be our last Christmas show with this group. The episode feels a bit thrown together at the last minute compared to previous Christmas shows, just like the office’s party itself. The entire office has somehow overlooked that today is the day for the Christmas party, forcing the party-planning committee to scramble to come up with something.
In the absence of any better idea, the planning committee (minus Angela) seizes on Dwight’s idea to hold a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, just like he experienced as a child. Dwight manages to put on quite the production, complete with a visit from Belsnickel, the fur-wearing, switch-wielding Christmas gift-giver. (I, along with the denizens of The Office, was surprised to find out that Belsnickel is part of a real southwestern German tradition.) In the meantime, Jim is anxious about getting to Philly to start his new job, while Andy and Erin drift further apart, with Erin finding a shoulder to cry on, and to watch Die Hard with, when Andy informs her that he plans to stay a couple of extra weeks in Barbados (or is it the Bahamas) to “figure this life thing out.”
As one might expect, without real managerial oversight or planning, the party quickly devolves into a mess that could expose the company to substantial liability. In addition to Dwight “switching” those that he deems to have had an “impish” year, Darryl believes that Jim has forgotten a promise he had made to him regarding Jim’s new position, and proceeds to get falling down drunk as a result–to the extent that he passes out onto a table at the end of the episode. If Darryl is badly hurt, he might bring an action against the company for permitting this type of party to occur, or at least have a workers’ compensation claim.
An employer must always be sensitive to its potential liability this time of year for behavior occurring at or after a holiday party. Know when to cut employees off who have had too much to drink, and keep in mind that the party is essentially an extension of the office environment and the workday.
Happy holidays to everyone–and pass the hog maw!