Fire in the hole

January 25, 2013 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Fire in the Hole prank = potential assault and battery charges for Dwight (not to mention the dry cleaning bill); Toby’s awkwardly affectionate overtures to Nellie = fodder for a potential hostile work environment claim against the Human Resources Manager; and using the Dunder Code to hunt for the fake holy grail = priceless. 

The Scranton office is heating up as the show moves towards its inevitable conclusion. Things are getting flirtatious between Erin and Pete as well as Nellie and Toby, illustrating why we have long warned in this blog against the dangers (and potential liability) arising from office romances. Also, the writers have re-introduced tension between Jim and Pam as a plot device, only this time it’s due to Jim’s stress at his new office and their long-distance relationship. Did anyone else wonder whether the writers were hinting of a future plot line involving Pam and crew member Brian? 

Romantic relationships were not the only ones tested in last night’s episode. Dwight has become increasingly concerned about Jim “poaching employees.” In an interesting twist on Dwight’s character, he decided to tackle the issue head-on with . . . FUN! Well, actually it was more like kidnapping, with which Dwight has some experience (remember Ryan and those confused, terrified day laborers?). 

Not only did this misguided strategy end in Dwight scrubbing a restaurant’s floor and getting nailed in the face by his own icy prank, Dwight also tried to trick his co-workers into signing a “Dunder Mifflin Loyalty Pledge.” The loyalty pledge sounds like a noncompete and/or nonsolicitation agreement.  While the enforceability of such agreements varies by state and depends heavily on the contents, a number of courts have held that continued employment is not sufficient consideration to support such agreements.  Indeed, to be enforceable, such agreements have to come with (for example) a pay raise, a new position, or additional training, etc. Further, you certainly can’t trick employees into signing one by pretending it is something else.

It will be interesting to see how this season progresses. In the meantime, I recommend avoiding anyone carrying a suspiciously large milkshake.

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5 COMMENTS

1 Donna Jaeggi
10:40:39, 25/01/13

Looks like a few potential spin offs might have you writing several blogs. I look forward to reading them!

2 Gini Redman Comer
11:13:00, 25/01/13

Great Blog as usual, Kristin! Very insightful. I was surprised to see Toby’s charachter being so inappropriate with Nellie given his position. I also wondered about the relationship between Pam and Brian.

3 Branigan Robertson
17:21:16, 27/01/13

What are we going to do when the show ends? As a employment lawyer I always laugh at the ridiculous situations in the Office. Since I’m a plaintiff’s lawyer I dream about getting clients from companies like Dundler Mifflin.

4 Kristin Starnes Gray
09:54:33, 28/01/13

Thanks for all the wonderful comments. I’m happy to hear that you are interested in further blog posts after the show ends. I always enjoy new blog ideas. By the way, if you follow The Office on twitter, they have posted a photo of Dwight’s “Coffee Order” form a.k.a. The Loyalty Pledge. Guess who ordered the “Cap’n Chino.”

5 Doug Hall
08:57:16, 08/02/13

I, too, have been wondering about what we will do when The Office draws to an end. Would love everyone’s ideas on that. Parks & Recreation is a good show, also set in a workplace, but we certainly would have to change the name of the blog!

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