Time to say goodbye (for now)

Series Litigation Value: various harassment, discrimination, and bizarre workers’ compensation matters = astronomical; future employment matters due to Dwight taking over as Regional Manager = enough to keep Dunder Mifflin’s attorneys busy for many years to come; seeing the older, hopefully wiser, family man version of Michael in the final episode = priceless.

After years of breaking down Dunder Mifflin’s employment law issues, your loyal bloggers will each (in turn) bid a final goodbye to the series with a farewell post. But don’t get too teary–we’re only saying goodbye for now until our new EntertainHR blog begins in June. For my final farewell to The Office, I can’t help but look back on my favorite Dunder Mifflin moments and all that I will miss about this hilarious series.

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No nonsense

Litigation Value:  Office romance with the new Regional Manager (and A.A.R.M.) = fodder for a potential sexual harassment claim; eliminating nonsense from the workplace = every human resources manager’s dream; Dwight giving up a milk maid to marry his long-time love and father his beet-loving offspring = priceless.

As John Krasinski explained in a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, Thursday’s episode marked the first half of a two-part series finale for The Office. As a side note, I definitely recommend you check out the interview on www.nbc.com.  The lip-syncing competition, which featured a bearded Krasinski passionately singing “I’ll Make Love to You” to Fallon, was comic gold.

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Bye Bye Bye

March 29, 2013 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Michael’s Antics over the Years = Too Many Zeros to Count; Collateral Damage from the Dwight/Jim Feud over the Years = Some Unfortunate Workers’ Compensation Claims; Getting a Super-Sized Finale = Priceless.   

Given that my esteemed colleague, Jaclyn, has addressed the Moving On episode twice now, I thought I would focus on our upcoming finale. The word is that, although we will get to see Kelly and Ryan again before all is said and done, our beloved Michael Scott will not be returning for the final episode. I would like to think that he and Holly are too busy happily raising the children Michael has long dreamed of (and even considered adopting on his own until he heard about the pesky waiting period). Regardless, here is my wish list for the finale.

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Breaking up is hard to do

February 18, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: David Wallace, get your metaphorical wallet out. You’ve got settlement checks to write for Erin ($2,500-$5,000 for sexual harassment and potentially a lot more for invasion of privacy), Pete ($5,000-$10,000 for sex discrimination and a touch of IIED), and Alice (the weakest claim, but still worth $1,000 or so for nuisance value).

What a night in Scranton. Dwight has roped Angela into acting as caregiver for his elderly aunt (best quote of the night: “Loose braids reflect a loose character”), and Pam is interviewing for an office manager job (which turns out to be a receptionist position in disguise) for the Michael Scott of the Philadelphia real estate industry. There’s plenty of material there, but I’ll leave that for one of my esteemed colleagues to discuss on re-runs, because I want to talk about the A plot.

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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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What NOT to wear to an interview

September 27, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $0.00, but only because Pete has a conscience and Daryl is a cinephile.

In last week’s season premier, new guy Pete was compared to Jim, while other new guy Clark was compared to Dwight. I’m all good with the former comparison, but the latter is waaaay off. Dwight beds his women using blunt Shrute charm. Clark’s ruse to seduce Erin was plain creepy. Thankfully Pete stepped in because Andy was clueless.

If not for Pete’s intervention as makeup man, Dunder Mifflin may be defending a lawsuit by Erin for negligence. Consider the facts. Branch manager Andy acquires knowledge that one of his young male employees intends to lure one of his young female employees back to his apartment, ply her with wine, doll her up in sexy outfits, and film her. Andy’s response? Here, take my credit card. (Shaking head sadly.)

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Don’t be tardy to Nellie’s party!

July 19, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Nothing this week — unless the magician sues for emotional distress.

Tonight’s “gently viewed” episode, “Welcome Party,” finds the gang dragooned by Robert California into performing favors for Robert’s newest crush, Nellie. Jim and Dwight are sent to help Nellie unpack her 30 boxes from London (and two trunks from Florida) into her new apartment, while the rest of the office is tasked with organizing a party to welcome Nellie into their community. Because Nellie is universally disliked, however, the party planners decide to throw her an intentionally bad party (as opposed to all the unintentionally bad parties in this history of the office). But when Jim and Dwight stumble across some personal history about Nellie (involving a stage magician) that shows her more vulnerable side, Jim calls Pam to tell her to put the kibosh on the plans. Alas, plans are too far along for Pam to do so. At least the office mates agree to use a code word (“Pam”) when referring to Nellie, so Nellie never realizes that the mean comments are directed at her. And Jim and Dwight gallantly come to Nellie’s side by ruining the magic act brought in for Nellie’s party (it makes sense if you see the episode).

Group bullying of this sort is, of course, not very nice, even if its target is herself rude and thoughtless at times. But would the actions of her co-workers give a claim against Dunder-Mifflin, assuming Nellie learned that they were directed at her?  Not likely. The statements were not because of, or based on, any protected characteristic, such as race, gender or age. Certainly they could be perceived as “hostile” but, contrary to popular opinion, courts generally do not recognize claims based simply on hostility in the workplace — the workplace has to be hostile based on a protected category. Indeed, courts have held that the anti-discrimination laws are not a general “civility code.” So, although this conduct could lead to problems down the road (and should be nipped in the bud), it should not provide a basis for liabiity. Moreover, Nellie’s own inappropriate statements about members of ethnic groups, seen earlier in the episode, would make it more difficult for her to claim that she was harmed by the conduct.

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Ooh, Ooh, She’s Magic

April 13, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much from this episode, but if Nellie sticks around her apparent prejudice against the Irish and Hispanics could lead to some sticky legal situations.

Another week, another party in Scranton. Last night on The Office, Robert had the party-planning committee working hard on a party to welcome Nellie into the fold. Problem is, the party-planning committee doesn’t actually like Nellie. Nor does anyone else in the office, for that matter. So Pam comes up with the idea to throw a terrible party for Nellie. The gang strings up black streamers, buys bad food (a carrot cake — it’s like a salad bar, as Kevin indignantly points out), and hires Creed to play “all originals.” And the piece de resistance — they hire a magician, because Nellie hates magicians.

But in the process of helping Nellie move into her new apartment while the party-planning goes on, Jim and Dwight learn that Nellie — prejudice against the Irish and Oscar notwithstanding — isn’t all bad. In fact, much of her abrasive attitude is rooted in having to start her life over in a new country after getting her heart broken by “a bloody stage magician.”

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Splish Splash

April 06, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  California and his cohorts swimming nude in front of employees = far too much to calculate; Andy trying to get his “monog” on = one trip to the hospital for an oxygen-deprived Dwight; and Kevin getting to create a party without the party planning committee’s input = priceless.

This was certainly not our first Dunder Mifflin party, but it was our first Office pool party which meant much hilarity and debauchery.  My colleague thoroughly covered this episode when it first aired in January.  As this period of re-runs continues, I wanted to take this opportunity to go over my top 5 tips for work-related pool parties. 

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Tighten Your Saddles

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

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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