Lady GaGa’s Door is Open

October 29, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: More fodder for Darryl’s racial harassment claim and $1,000 to re-write Sabre’s Open Door Policy.

Where to begin, where to begin? I knew as soon as I saw the Hallowe’en costumes that we were in for quite an evening. And I must say, I agree with Kelly — can’t Michael just let the employees enjoy an office party, for once, without making it about all of his issues? Tonight, Michael was upset because Darryl went over his head to go behind his back (and stab him in the heart, I might add).

Some time back, apparently, Darryl had the idea that the warehouse delivery drivers should be able to make sales. He presented this idea to Michael, who squashed it. (Probably because it didn’t involve dressing up in costume like the Golden Ticket idea from a few seasons back.)  Not having gotten anywhere with Michael, Darryl then took the idea to Gabe. First, I have to point out, Darryl did go to Michael first, so Michael’s anger at being circumvented is slightly misplaced.

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Corporate Espionage for Dummies

October 21, 2010 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS

Prison Sentences for Michael, Dwight, and Jim: Up to seven years for interception of oral communications plus up to seven years for attempted theft of trade secrets. There may also be criminal conspiracy prosecutions against Meredith, Oscar, and Ryan.

Litigation Value: Danny Cordray’s action for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Dunder Mifflin and several individuals = $250,000. Osprey’s action against Dunder Mifflin and several individuals for misappropriation of trade secrets = an injunction and damages to be proved at trial.

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Brawl in the Family

September 23, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much; yet.

Kicking off Season 7, tonight’s premiere teaches us a valuable lesson — the perils of nepotism in the workplace. Nepotism in its simplest form is “favoritism” toward relatives, without regard to merit. Michael Scott’s misguided decision to employ his jackwagon of a nephew, Luke, as an office assistant illustrated nearly all that’s wrong with workplace nepotism. Michael completely ignored Luke’s utter disregard of the most basic of his responsibilities — from botched Starbucks and ice cream runs to blatant insubordination to hoarding important FedEx packages in the trunk of his clapped-out Honda Civic — until it quickly caused a mutiny among the Scranton staff. Only when confronted en masse did Michael attempt to discipline Luke; by spanking him!?!?

While not necessarily illegal, among the prime complaints that companies practicing nepotism typically face is the obvious lack of fairness toward those who are not related to the decisionmaker. Perceived favoritism of a relative often creates dissatisfaction and reduced morale among workers. And, employees who are awarded and promoted solely because of their familial relationships are more likely to be underqualified for the positions they are expected to fill, leading to an erosion of leadership skills and contributing to the demoralization of more deserving candidates. In sum, when workplace nepotism is present, employees often show less enthusiasm, have a lesser incentive to diligently or proficiently perform their jobs, become embittered and less productive, decide to work elsewhere, or, most importantly, become so disgruntled that they end up filing a lawsuit under an alleged discrimination or hostile work environment theory.

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Watch Your Mouth

September 17, 2010 - by: Matt Scott 2 COMMENTS

workplace privacyForgive me for repeating myself, but The Office was a repeat last night. Thankfully it was the last repeat before next week’s season premier, Thursday, Sept. 23 on NBC.

Moving on. This was the episode where Jo sought to uncover who blew the whistle on Sabre’s faulty explosive printers. There really didn’t seem to be any federal employment laws implicated in this episode, but virtually every state in the country has some whistleblower protections in place for employees who report corporate wrongdoing. Some are created by statute, others are created by the courts (common law causes of action). What applies to you depends on the state in which you live.

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Words Matter (More than Lithium)

August 19, 2010 - by: Matt Rita 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: A plaintiff (and high school) class consisting of “Scott’s Tots,” each of whom could claim entitlement to four years of college tuition — less an offset for the value of a laptop battery. (Thanks, Mr. Scott.)

Greetings, faithful readers! You know the summer’s going fast and the nights are growing colder — at least in some parts of the continent — when this blog circles back on itself not once, but twice. While watching the most recent repeat of The Office, I seemed to recall writing about someone else within Ford & Harrison who had previously written about this episode. Or maybe I just read his or her prior post. Whatever the case, the fact that I can’t remember how many levels in we are (can you say “Inception”?) suggests that it’s high time for a new season!

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

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

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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Who Wanted to Be a Millionaire?

December 03, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: From Dunder Mifflin’s corporate perspective, likely $0, though it might find itself having to defend claims that it should be liable for Michael’s tuition promise. Michael on the other hand . . . but you can’t get blood from a turnip, right?

Just how long has Michael Scott been wreaking havoc on the greater Scranton area? From this episode of The Office, Scott’s Tots, we learn that he’s been at it for at least 10 years, when he promised a group of third graders — Scott’s Tots — that he would pay their college tuition should they graduate from high school. Oh those heady days of 1999, when Michael thought he’d be a millionaire by age 30, 40 at the latest. Well, it’s 2009 now and the chickens have come home to roost. In a series of cringe-inducing scenes, Michael tries to avoid facing the music at all, then reluctantly comes clean, but only after letting the kids sing his praises.

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Acting Koi

October 30, 2009 - by: Chris Butler 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: As to Dunder Mifflin, $500,000 (for potential hostile work environment, race discrimination/harassment, and/or intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress damages); as to Andy, $25,000 (for potential assault, battery, humiliation, and emotional distress damages); as to Michael, $300 (value of decapitated koi).

Eight seconds. That’s precisely how long Michael needed to both sexually and racially harass the multitudes. To set the stage, Michael emceed the Scranton branch’s office Halloween party, staffed by Scranton branch employees and attended by their friends and families, including numerous children (and it was principally for them). Unencumbered by restraint, Michael spared no opportunity to “gift” the audience with a sexually provocative costume (paying homage to Mr. Timberlake and S.N.L.). Aside from his perpetually poor judgment, Michael’s offensive attire alone could land Dunder Mifflin with a hostile work environment lawsuit, particularly given his supervisory role. When will he learn to be the example, instead of being made the example?

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Getting a Little (Maid of the) Misty

October 08, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0 for Dunder-Mifflin (consider the bullets dodged for now), but I’d love to be the plaintiffs’ lawyer representing those poor souls who got ice from the machine in which Kevin stuck his formerly Kleenex-boxed feet

I don’t normally cry at weddings, but I could see making an exception for the long-anticipated nuptials of “The Office” sweethearts Pam and Jim. Not because these characters found true love — they’re fictional after all. No, my tears were for the fact that the wedding takes the entire Office out of the office and on the road to Niagara Falls! (“Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch…”  - it’s an old Three Stooges routine, ask your parents.) How is any self-respecting employment lawyer — or me for that matter — supposed to write an employment law blog about an episode that doesn’t involve work? Well, I shouldn’t have worried, Michael Scott et al. never fail to deliver!

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