California Scheming

October 20, 2011 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  More fodder for potential sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and national origin claims, but it could have been worse. At least Andy didn’t run naked through the parking lot with a doughnut on his ding-dong — that would have put me off of Krispy Kreme for awhile.

Was really looking forward to being able to discuss a new episode of The Office following the summer reruns and … NBC puts up a rerun of “The Incentive” against the World Series. Que sera. My colleague Josh Drexler gave his take on the episode (check it out at http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/2011/09/30/southern-exposure/), and now it’s my turn.

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Grease Lightning

October 07, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: allowing office staff to take over the warehouse and invent a new loading method = several bizarre Workers’ Compensation claims; Andy asking Oscar about his “wildest fantasy guy” while choosing new warehouse personnel = yet more fodder for Oscar’s potential claims; and controlling your own destiny = priceless.

This week’s episode started off with the warehouse crew winning the lottery and promptly resigning to pursue other dreams, including opening adult entertainment venues and creating “an energy drink for Asian homosexuals.”  Darryl is less than thrilled for his former warehouse co-workers, given that he used to participate in the lottery before his promotion and the crew won using the numbers from his birthday.  Darryl is too depressed to complete his task of hiring a replacement warehouse crew, which leads Andy to ask for volunteers to ship the day’s orders.  With Dwight, Jim, Erin, and Kevin covering the warehouse, what could go wrong?  One damaged wall, one mostly empty shipping truck, one lost customer, several injuries, and numerous greasy paper boxes later, Darryl and Andy both learn to have a greater appreciation for experienced warehouse crews.

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Awesome!

September 08, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

With just two weeks to go until the new season begins, I wanted to make sure we give proper attention to another potential candidate for Michael’s position (once Robert California vacates it and proceeds to rule the Company and then the world) — Kelly Kapoor. She has gone through a number of transformations since slapping Michael in “Diversity Training.” Has the minority executive training program helped Kelly to become a rising star? Gabe certainly learned his lesson when he failed to take Kelly seriously as a candidate. In case Kelly does indeed fill Michael’s large shoes, here is my top 10 list of things our friends at The Office should keep in mind.

1.  You better hope you raised your hand for Kelly when asked whose side you were on in the Kelly/Ryan divorce drama.

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Time to Say Goodbye

April 29, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Michael asking Angela if she had thought they would have sex and Gabe accosting Erin in the women’s room = additional fodder for sexually hostile work environment claims; finding out Phyllis regularly buys erotic cakes = thousands of dollars in therapy for the party planning committee to forget that disturbing mental image; Michael finally getting his World’s Best Boss trophy = priceless.

It’s time to say goodbye to Michael Scott, everyone’s favorite foot-grilling, ladies suit-wearing, paintball-playing boss. While it is sad to see him go, we can’t help but be happy that he’s finally getting his fairytale ending with Holly. Last night’s episode had Michael coming to terms with his move to Colorado (including the reality that his improv class credits may not transfer) and trying to have a special moment with each of his Dunder Mifflin family members before he leaves. Now that he has taken off the microphone and boarded the plane to the land of bears, let’s look back on some of the best Michael Scott moments over the last seven seasons.

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Give ‘Em The Old Razzle Dazzle

September 03, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Training on Diversity and Harassment = $5,000; Settlement of Countless Employee Claims = a Shocking Amount; Years Worth of “That’s What She Said” Jokes = Priceless.

With Michael’s final season quickly approaching, last night’s repeat got Michael Scottme thinking about all my favorite Michael moments over the seasons. While Michael can be a human resources nightmare, he certainly has made us laugh (when we weren’t cringing).  Here’s a list of my top 10 favorite examples of Michael’s “dash of razzle dazzle” management style. Who knows? Maybe TBS will even include a few of them during its Labor Day marathon of The Office.
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The Michael Scott School of Business

July 09, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: An education on management from the master (of disaster) … priceless.

The Office didn’t air in my little corner of the world last night, and I’m currently battling symptoms of withdrawal. So I decided to take a little walk down memory lane and relive some of my favorite lessons from Season 6. Remember, back in Season 2, when Michael gave Ryan the benefit of his many years of management experience through a series of cliches? What lessons would Michael share with us from this season?

Gossip: Michael divulges Stanley’s secret — he’s having an affair! — to the entire office. Feeling guilty, Michael makes up false rumors about everyone in the office, telling the office that Kelly has an eating disorder, Andy is homosexual, and Pam is pregnant. Turns out, Pam really is pregnant. Lesson learned: Talk is cheap … for Michael, anyway. Maybe not so much for Dunder Mifflin.

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Sex Sells (OK, No It Doesn’t)

May 01, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $250,000 for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and negligent entrustment.

Well, folks, the quintessential horndog – Michael Scott – is back on the stick. And this week, he didn’t disappoint. Michael’s recent announcement that this may be his final year sitting in the boss chair makes us wonder who will replace him; as if anyone could. We’ll address that later.

All right, so check it out: An attractive female, and potential Sabre customer, let’s just call her Donna (because that’s her name), visits the office dressed in eye-catching semi-business wear. Michael wastes no time in jokingly asking: “Did somebody order a hooker?” Soon thereafter, Michael interrupts Jim and Pam Halpert’s PowerPoint sales presentation by offering Donna a dog-eared Victoria’s Secret catalog. Michael further attempts to get Donna “turned on” by hijacking the presentation, superimposing wistful photos of himself, both fully clothed and facetiously standing behind a semi-nude strongman cutout (including an unnamed underwear model).

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Classic Rewind

January 22, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 6 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: In the aggregate, $100 million; most of which is punitive damages

OK, so tonight’s episode – The Banker –- didn’t really bring us much new material, but it indeed highlighted five years of near-catastrophic employee-relations failures. As Dunder Mifflin verges on economic collapse, a potential investor dispatches its self-proclaimed “fact-checker” to conduct a due-diligence assessment of the company’s “H.R. liabilities.” While interviewing HR representative Toby Flenderson, the fact-checker poses a series of provocative questions that invoke Toby’s vivid recollection of why he so dearly hates his job. In essence, we rewind the tape a few years. Let’s take a look:

  • Racial/national origin harassment/discrimination: Michael Scott mocking Kelly Kapoor’s Indian heritage.
  • Inappropriate and/or sexually-suggestive language and innuendos: Michael’s skilled reliance on the phrase “that’s what she said” to transform seemingly innocuous comments into sexually charged double entendres; Michael’s lewd references to Stanley Hudson’s teenage daughter; Michael exposing himself to Pam; Meredith Palmer exposing herself to the entire office; and Michael kissing Phyllis Lapin to dissuade her from complaining to human resources about his sexually offensive language, and then immediately rewarding her graciousness with sexually offensive language.
  • Sexual harassment/sexual orientation harassment: Michael kissing the visibly-horrified Oscar  Martinez on the lips to illustrate his tolerance of same-sex relationships; again, Michael kissing Phyllis; and, yet again, Michael’s unbridled references to “that’s what she said.”
  • Age harassment/discrimination: Several mean-spirited references to Creed Bratton’s age and his “distinct old man smell.”
  • Workplace violence: Andy Bernard ramming his fist through the wall; Pam slapping Michael; Kelly slapping Michael; Jim Halpert slapping Dwight Schrute; Dwight punching Michael, and later pounding him in the face with a shoe; Phyllis hurling a wad of paper into Angela Martin’s face; and Oscar shoving Angela.
  • Potential workers’ compensation claims: Michael running down Meredith in the employee parking lot; Andy plunging from a transfer truck into an empty refrigerator box; and Michael ramming the warehouse forklift into a storage rack, causing a cascade of flying metal, boxes, and paper.
  • Health and safety violations: Dwight purposely igniting a trashcan paper fire to instigate an unscheduled fire “drill”; and, again, Michael ramming the warehouse forklift into the storage rack.
  • Property damage/waste of company resources: Michael and Dwight bouncing a watermelon from the office roof onto a parked car; several mutinous employees shoving paper, books, and supplies to the floor; an employee shattering a plate glass window with a toy-gun projectile; again, Michael overturning the storage rack; Jim disassembling Dwight’s desk and contents (classic) and enveloping them in holiday wrapping paper; and Jim encasing Dwight’s stapler in a Jell-O mold.
  • Invasion of privacy/HIPAA violations: Dwight demanding that each employee publicly identify his or her personal medical condition to determine its legitimacy.
  • Supervisor-subordinate romantic relationships/inappropriate public displays of affection: Dwight making out with Angela; Angela making out with Andy; Kelly making out with Ryan; Michael’s painfully inappropriate workplace relationship with his boss, Jan (and discussing his repeated vasectomies before the entire office); and Jim’s and Pam’s eternal office romance, despite Jim’s supervisory role (OK, we turn a blind eye to this because we really like them).
  • Hostile work environment/miscellaneous inappropriate and outrageous behavior: All of the above, and too many to mention.

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Growing Up Grotti

October 16, 2009 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Oscar’s damages–climbing; diversity and harassment training from a trained professional–$2,000; backing off the mafia–priceless.

It’s a new episode of The Office that has Michael, Dwight, and Andy convinced that an insurance salesman is part of the mafia based on “his southern Italian heritage.”  While it was entertaining for viewers to watch the trio (and Pat the Mechanic) battle a perceived low-level mafia shakedown, it is certainly not office-appropriate conduct.  Looks like our friends at Dunder Mifflin need a refresher on national origin discrimination, and I am sure Oscar would agree.  National origin is not limited to the country where a person was born, but it also includes the country from which a person’s ancestors came.  In addition, national origin discrimination can include discrimination because the individual possesses the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.  An employee’s objective appearance can form the basis for an unlawful discrimination claim.  For example, the Third Circuit found that an employee was discriminated against as Hispanic even though the employee regarded himself as a Sephardic Jew.

Although Mr. Grotti does not have a national origin discrimination claim (given that he is not a Dunder Mifflin employee), Dunder Mifflin should strongly consider diversity and harassment training, because this is not the first time Michael has exhibited a lack of sensitivity when it comes to an individual’s national origin.  For example, I am sure most of us remember Michael asking Oscar if there is a “less offensive” term for “Mexican” or when Michael told everyone that Oscar was the voice of the Taco Bell dog.

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Small Favors

June 25, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

Thank goodness for small favors!  With The Office on summer break, we didn’t have to face Thursday night with trepidation, fearing that Michael would, in his affable way, fling impertinent comments about the Iranian election crisis around for all to hear. We are probably not the only ones breathing a sigh of relief either. After all, nearly every company is home to employees who feel uncomfortable when in the midst of insulting and derogatory comments. It is hard to imagine who they are at Dunder Mifflin, but it’s not all that unusual to not know who is privately offended. In a raucous or excessively jovial work environment, people often don’t express their discomfort at off-color jokes and quips.

Allowing culturally insensitive banter in the workplace not only is likely to alienate some employees, but it also may even give rise to a hostile work environment claim if allowed to continue unchecked. Dunder Mifflin could sure benefit from some well-designed diversity training, not to mention supervisor training.

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