It’s, Like, Dishonest

March 07, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation Value:  Dunder Mifflin faces potential FTC sanctions for Erin and Pete’s fake “like” marketing campaign on Facebook.

“Customer Loyalty” aired back in January, and I highly recommend Kristin’s post questioning the validity of Dwight’s loyalty pledge.  I might add that such a pledge is probably not necessary considering that most states recognize in some form that employees owe their employers a duty of loyalty to act in the employer’s best interest, regardless of whether the employees have executed any restrictive covenants.

I was interested in a short scene where flirty duo, Erin and Pete, rejoice over their marketing scheme to generate fake “likes” for Dunder Mifflin’s Facebook page.  Turns out, this is not only dishonest, but also may violate FTC guidelines as well as Facebook’s internal policies.  In 2009 the FTC determined that paying for positive online reviews without disclosing such constitutes deceptive advertising.  This determination could be extended to prosecuting firms that generate fake “likes” for Facebook pages.  On August 31, 2012, Facebook announced that it was ratcheting up its automated detection and removal of “likes” that may have been generated “by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk likes.”  These measures are going to be necessary.  IT research firm, Gartner, Inc., predicts that by 2014, 10 to 15 percent of online reviews will be fake or paid for.

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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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It’s a WUPHF World

November 20, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 5 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

Litigation Value: Probably no liability to Sabre, although several employees stood to lose their investments in Wuphf.com.

This week’s episode of The Office focused on Dunder Mifflin/Sabre’s own budding social media king, Ryan Howard. We first learned about Ryan’s new social media company, WUPHF, last season when the most recent IT guy, “Glasses,” mined the employees’ hard drives and we all discovered how many ways Dunder Mifflin employees have dreamed up to waste company time. Well, it looks like Ryan has continued to work on his personal dream of further expanding the social media landscape and creating a world where none of us is ever safe from Kelly’s calls, IMs, Tweets, Facebook messages, and LinkedIn invitations. Ryan’s goal of creating a social media empire has continued to evolve on company time and using company resources, much to Erin’s chagrin. (Was I the only one who LOL’ed when Erin whispered “All that color” with intense emotion after Ryan unveiled his WUPHF poster, created on Sabre printers, no doubt?)

But wasting company time and resources isn’t what I want to talk about today, although I could write a novel about the ways Scranton employees have come up with to put Dunder Mifflin’s resources to unsanctioned use. (My personal favorite — the Dunder Mifflin Olympics from Season 2. I dream of medalling in Flonkerton.) And that certainly was on my mind as I watched this episode — after all, Jim devoted a large chunk of the episode to adapting Jo’s book into a way to torture Gabe over the phone. Jim did have a good point: Changing the policy to put a cap on commissions did remove his incentive to work hard, once he had reached the cap, and Gabe’s failure to recognize the possible productivity issue may come back to bite the company later. But we can talk about that another time, since I expect Jim’s reign of unproductive terror is not over.

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Watch Your Mouth

September 17, 2010 - by: Matt Scott 2 COMMENTS
Matt Scott

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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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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Night Out

April 26, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 4 COMMENTS
Julie Elgar

This week’s episode raises some interesting issues for employers. The one that first comes to mind is whether an employer should host internal social networking websites for their employees. Frankly, I’ve got mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, social networking websites are great for recruiting, communicating information, answering employee questions, and allowing employees to get to know colleagues in far off places. A virtual water cooler if you will. But (and this is a large “but”) they also have some significant downsides if not maintained properly. Internal social networking websites must be monitored for inappropriate content (like, for example, the sexual predators who infiltrated the Dunder Mifflin website), disclosures of the company’s confidential information, and for those people who try and use the website as their own personal dating service. I shudder to think about what Michael will do with this feature once Dunder Mifflin 2.0 is up and running.

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

February 28, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 6 COMMENTS
Julie Elgar

Here is an interesting one. Earlier this week, the mayor of a small town in Oregon was fired after the town learned that there were pictures on the Internet of their esteemed leader posing in front of a fire truck in a black lace bra and panty set. The photographs were taken before she was elected and were posted on MySpace by a family member who wanted to help improve the mayor’s social life. But the mayor left the photographs up after she was elected, and her opponents found this to be inappropriate. So she lost her job.

The ouster raises an interesting point: Can/should an employer check out employees or prospective employees on the Internet? After all, there is wealth of information on the world wide web. On the other hand, there is a lot of information the employer just doesn’t want to know. After all, just what should human resources do after discovering photographs of a job candidate doing keg stands on the employee’s MySpace page? Does it bring forth any issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act? What if a current employee’s page shows her doing bong hits or the page contains racially or sexually offensive content?

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