iPlaintiff

May 24, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: Ryan gets nothing today, but in a few years ….. who knows?

The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) significantly broadened the ADA’s definition of disability. Ryan had me asking myself how much during last night’s rerun episode, Trivia. During the trivia contest, the organizers confiscated Ryan’s smartphone. Ryan held out for all of eight seconds before deciding that he would rather be ejected from the bar with his smartphone than remain there and compete for $1,000 without it.

Does Ryan have a disability under the ADAAA? Might Dunder Mifflin have to seek a reasonable accommodation for Ryan if he requests one? The answer today is likely “no,” but that could change in the not-too-distant future.

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Tighten Your Saddles

February 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: Cathy showing Jim the “Talla-Nasty” = yet more fodder for Jim’s sexual harassment lawsuit; five dots = a murky texting area and potential lawsuit for Darryl; and watching Dwight work himself into a human bedbug trap = priceless.

This After Hours episode has the gang engaging in conduct that should make any human resources professional cringe. Tighten your saddles, because it is bound to be a bumpy ride. While the Scranton branch is working late, the Florida team is hitting the hotel bar scene for some debauchery. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the fact that the conduct occurs outside the workplace does not necessarily free an employer from liability, particularly when a supervisor instructs her employees that bar attendance is “compulsory.” 

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Sabotage!

January 05, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: Nothing in this episode, but Dwight is perilously close to civil and criminal liability for his computer activities.

Jaclyn West wrote about this episode, Doomsday, two months ago when it originally aired. Her post discussed “motivation” and the inevitable sexual harassment of warehouse Val, either at the hands of Gabe or Darryl.

Dwight’s “Accountability Booster” raises a different employment law issue. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 prohibits, among other things, intentionally transmitting a code or program and causing damage to a computer system. Dwight’s doomsday program would have sent information to Robert California that was harmful to the Scranton employees. This likely does not violate the CFAA, but it reminds us that Dunder Mifflin needs an acceptable use policy to govern computer use by its employees.

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Michael May Be Gone — But His Emails Go On!

August 25, 2011 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Counting down the weeks until the new season of The Office starts. Tonight’s rerun episode — “Dwight K. Schrute, (Acting) Manager” — was first covered by my Office (and office) mate Jaclyn West; check it out, it’s a great read (http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/2011/05/14/straight-shooter/).

Poking around The Office website on nbc.com, I came across a web exclusive: a collection of e-mails between Michael and his former Dunder Mifflin co-workers. You can read them at http://www.nbc.com/the-office/exclusives/michael-scott/yahoo/. Check out the folders labeled “Friends” (particularly the one from Holly) and “Co-workers.” The latter includes several messages from Michael as he flew across the country to reunite with Holly in Colorado (thank goodness for in-flight WiFi, and thank goodness that Ryan let Michael know that the WiFi was available throughout the plane, not just in the bathroom), as well as some post-departure e-mails from the denizens of The Office. I especially liked the one from “The Fist,” and Dwight’s anxious reply.

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value:  training management on whistleblower protections — $10,000; settling customer claims due to the flaming printers — more than Sabre would like to think about; finding out Holly’s coming back — priceless.

The printers aren’t the only things heating up at Sabre. Jo’s mission to root out the whistleblower had more than one person sweating in Scranton. Tensions were high given Pam’s admission to a reporter’s wife, Darryl’s misguided attempts to pick up a not-so-cute copy editor, Kelly’s infamous tweet, and Andy’s video. Unfortunately for Sabre, a variety of laws protect employees who choose to “blow the whistle” on employer wrongdoing.

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Meet the New Boss

February 04, 2010 - by: Brian Kurtz 3 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation Value: Approximately $5,000 – 10,000; Oscar’s Dunder Mifflin vacation time … and the replacement cost of Stanley’s busted windshield.

Employment law issues often get overlooked in a merger while the parties focus on stock price, transition planning, public relations, and other big-ticket concerns. When Gabe announced to the Scranton employees that Sabre offered two weeks of vacation, Oscar complained that he had six weeks banked from Dunder Mifflin. Is he entitled to either cash it out or carry it over to his Sabre employment? Probably.

While not entirely clear, it appears that Sabre purchased a controlling stake in Dunder Mifflin. In this type of stock purchase, the buyer “steps into the shoes” of the company being acquired. Of course, a new employer can make its own policy, but subject to state wage-hour laws. Most state laws prohibit an employer from taking away an employee’s earned or accrued vacation. Oscar’s complaint suggests that Dunder Mifflin permitted employees to carry over earned, unused vacation. So when Sabre stepped into Dunder Mifflin’s shoes, Oscar’s vacation bank should have carried over. Hey, Gabe. Let’s talk about a use-it-or-lose-it vacation policy.

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Sex, Flatulence, and Blogging About Work!

June 12, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS
Troy Foster

Dwight Shurte and Creed Bratton from The Office both have blogs. Dwight warns readers that they shouldn’t be reading his blog while they are at work. Employment law attorney Troy Foster reminds HR and employers that they should have policies about employees blogging about work as well as at work.

With another week with no episode of The Office, I had to find something interesting to get your attention!  In that endeavor, I stumbled across a couple of blogs — one by Dwight and the other by Creed.

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The Job – Somewhat Revisited

September 21, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS
Julie Elgar

Almost time for the season opener! Be sure to tune in next week for my recap of what promises to be a hilarious show. As for today, business calls and I’m in New Orleans with a malfunctioning computer. I’m re-posting my earlier post from the season finale. More to follow just as soon as my technology is up and running!

LITIGATION VALUE: $50,000 (with the potential for a whole lot more)

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The Job

May 18, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 2 COMMENTS
Julie Elgar

LITIGATION VALUE: $50,000 (with the potential for a whole lot more)

So Creed has joined the millions of people blogging at (and about) work. I’d say that this could definitely cause trouble for Dunder Mifflin when Creed eventually learns how to post his musings on something more than a Microsoft Word document. Believe it or not, there are actual cases being brought by employees who have been dooced (fired) over the content of their blogs. Take, for example, the flight attendant who was fired for posting photographs of herself stretched out on a row of seats with her uniform hiked up and her bra showing. She sued the airline for sex discrimination. There is also a journalist who got dooced for posting a critical play-by-play about her company and its bad management practices. Dunder Mifflin should be very afraid of what the Scranton employees could post about their work place. Especially if Creed actually learns how to post his entries online or, god forbid, he learns how to post photographs.

As for Jan and her unfortunate demise, I think she may have a claim. Not a good one but a claim nonetheless. After all, she was fired and replaced by a younger male temp who has very little seniority and no management experience just a few days after she “enhanced” her more feminine qualities. Jan could also claim that Dunder Mifflin fired her because it “regarded her” as having a mental disability. After all, the CFO did tell her that she was “clearly unstable” when he terminated her. While Jan probably won’t be the next big winner in the litigation lotto, it will still cost some money to defend. But with any luck, Jan’s attorneys won’t be able to use anything from Creed’s blog as evidence in the lawsuit.

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