It’s a Setup

November 21, 2008 - by: Dominic Verstegen 1 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $500,000 to Toby; maybe a couple of bucks to Pam.

Welcome back Toby to The Office! For your trouble, how about a sizable money judgment courtesy of Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, and the good folks at Dunder Mifflin! Invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault . . . the list goes on and on. You’d think with all this action, Toby’s facial expression would have changed at some point during the episode. Alas, it’s not in his repertoire.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an episode containing such blatant improper behavior — and clear liability on behalf of the company. Whether it was Michael threatening Toby, Michael setting up Toby for a crime, or even Ryan and Kelly just making out in front of Toby (that really explicit, lippy making out, like in Top Gun — nasty), Toby endured a lifetime’s worth of emotional distress in just one workday.

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We’ve Come a Long Way (Except for Michael and Dwight)

November 07, 2008 - by: Dominic Verstegen 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $50,000.

In this week’s episode of The Office, Michael Scott is on camera calling Kelly Kapoor dusky and exotic, and then Dwight Schrute, the assistant to the regional manager, refers to her southern India birth before he threatens her. A jury somewhere will find against Dunder Mifflin for race discrimination. Of course, that jury would have to ignore Kelly sabotaging Dwight’s and Jim’s bonuses and then claiming she was raped when she was caught in her misconduct. (“You cannot just say that you’ve been raped and expect all your problems to go away. Not again, don’t keep doing that.”) But still, some people will sympathize with Kelly.

It’s fitting that the Dunder Mifflin gang brought race discrimination to our attention this week, after the historic election of Barack Obama. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment, is not even 50 years old, and now we have a black President. (The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also outlawed discrimination based on religion, gender, and national origin — interestingly, gender was added at the last minute by a Virginia congressman who thought its inclusion would kill the bill.) This piece of legislation drastically changed the face of employment law. It allowed the Kelly Kapoors of the world to file lawsuits when the Michael Scotts of the world called them dusky.

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Addressing the ‘Toxic Manager’

August 29, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 0 COMMENTS

Rainn Wilson (Dwight) has been all over the place lately promoting his new movie and the new season of The Office. One of his more interesting appearances in the media was a Business Week article in which he was interviewed about “office jobs from hell.” It was interesting to learn that Rainn used to work at an insurance broker’s office and as an assistant to the assistant special events coordinator at a charity before becoming famous.

Rainn talked about the cruelty of fluorescent lights (suggesting that we send prisoners of war to a 60-hour workweek at an insurance company in Omaha) and a particularly “toxic” boss he had. Oddly, Rainn raised a good point, not about bear attacks like his alter ego Dwight would do, but about the dangers of a poisonous environment at work.

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Night Out

April 26, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 4 COMMENTS

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.

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