The Return of the Nard Dog

February 07, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0. Though there is all sorts of questionable stuff going on, none of it should expose Dunder Mifflin itself to any claims or liability.

In tonight’s episode, “Couples Discount,” no one really covers themselves in glory.  You’ve got The Office denizens seeking to goof off one last time before Andy returns, and pretending about being in relationships with each other to get discounts on foot treatments. You’ve got Andy covering up with David Wallace that he’s been gone for 3 months. And as far as everyone’s favorite couple, Pam and Jim, are concerned, you’ve got Jim learning that Pam has kept a secret from him relating to her relationship with Brian the boom man — and his reaction is to run back to Philly. Layer on top of that Erin’s awkward efforts to break up with Andy, and all-in-all it was not an uplifting episode.

But hey, you’re not reading this blog to hear me kvetch, you’re here to learn about the labor and employment aspects of the episode. Well, I don’t really see anything here that would put the good folks at Dunder Mifflin on the hot seat. If anything, the company would have the ability to take action against Andy to recoup the funds that he was paid while he was out of the office without authorization. It wasn’t cool for Andy’s co-workers to lie to him about what went on during his absence in order to trip him up when he spoke to Wallace, but there isn’t much Andy could do about that.

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Draw me a butt

January 31, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Frank can collect from Pam and Dwight the cost of cleaning paint off his truck.

“Shouldn’t someone get fired for this?”

That’s the question Pam asked while confronting the large orange butts that someone (Frank) spray-painted on her warehouse mural in “Vandalism,” the second of two new episodes tonight. Of course someone should get fired, but Pam and Dwight will be joining Frank in the unemployment line after drawing revenge art on his truck. A trail of poop? Pam, you’re better than that.

Frank’s behavior during his HR interview and in the parking lot raises a more serious issue — workplace violence. The man is dangerous. A January 2011 FBI bulletin notes that in most cases workplace violent offenders do not suddenly “snap.” Instead, the study claims, they follow a path that can begin with behavior such as brooding or making odd writings and drawings. Frank seems well on his way down the path. His near physical attack on Pam was one of the show’s rare departures from any hint of comedy. In the real world, Dunder Mifflin would contact the police, terminate Frank immediately, and notify building security to watch for him on or around the property.

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Aged Like a Fine Wisconsin Parmesan

June 10, 2010 - by: Doug Hall 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: More fodder for a potential lawsuit by Oscar Martinez; at least $10,000-15,000 to help Dunder Mifflin muddle through the competing Darryl-Dwight complaints — and the only reason it is that low is that, at the end of the day, neither is likely to want to escalate their dispute further.

Tonight we were treated to a repeat — or should I say “finely aged” — episode, “The Meeting.” The main story line — in which Michael Scott tries to undercut Jim Halpert’s efforts to get promoted to management, only to learn that Michael would have been promoted as well — doesn’t really involve potential employment law liability to the company. There is plenty to talk about, however, in the “B” plot and the cold open.

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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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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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