Living the dream

May 03, 2013 - by: Adam Klarfeld 2 COMMENTS
Adam Klarfeld

Litigation Value: None.

I think The Office gods have been reading my blog entries and decided they’d give me an hour-long episode with very few legal issues.

In last night’s episode, three main characters made significant career moves. Dwight received the manager promotion, Andy quit his job to pursue fame, and Jim decided to stay in Scranton rather than pitch his other business nationwide. These actions alone create very few legal issues for the company to address.

Dwight’s promotion will eventually, of course, lead to all kinds of good legal issues to discuss. I’m sure there will be all kinds of weird directives, decisions, and comments that will keep this blog busy as the season winds down. I’m guessing that Angela’s confession to Oscar that she’s in love with Dwight, her supervisor, will lead to an entire blog about sexual harassment involving supervisors. That blog post will discuss how even if the relationship truly is consensual (i.e., not a quid pro quo situation where a supervisor expects the relationship to continue in exchange for certain treatment), the problem remains that the relationship creates a conflict of interest. In other words, Angela’s co-workers might sense a certain level of favoritism toward her. That blog will also discuss how the level of sexual banter may increase in the workplace when consenting employees are in a romantic relationship in the office. This could lead to sexual harassment claims, and when a supervisor is involved, many of a company’s traditional affirmative defenses are inapplicable. Unfortunately for me, that blog is only theoretical. Maybe Angela and Dwight will not get together in the end?

Andy’s resignation right before he was about to be fired is interesting from an unemployment-benefits perspective. Generally an employee who voluntarily quits isn’t entitled to state unemployment benefits, while an employee who is terminated for poor performance would be entitled to such benefits. Thus, the timing of Andy’s decision may have had some practical benefits for the company. His decision to defecate on Wallace’s car might have rendered those benefits moot (had he been fired for that act).

For now, we can only imagine the humor (and legal issues) that will come with Dwight’s promotion. Stay tuned…

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2 COMMENTS

1 Topher
21:59:12, 04/05/13

What about Andy groping Toby??

2 Adam Klarfeld
09:22:29, 06/05/13

That’s a good point, I skimmed past that because the groping (to me) was so obviously not based on sex (or Toby’s gender). Andy was just trying to be a pain and I’m sure he was thinking this is how you be a pain to some working in human resources. To constitute actionable harassement, the behavior must be “based on sex.” Williams v. General Motors Corp., 187 F.3d 553, 560-61 (6th Cir. 1999). From what I remember from the episode, Andy was targeting Toby’s private parts, so maybe this would constitute sexual harassment. At the very least, it’s a battery. Sorry for not identifying that issue, but thanks for bringing it up.

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