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  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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Playing Favorites

May 06, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  Get out your checkbook, Dunder Mifflin Sabre. Although your chauvinistic branch manager’s episode-ending dunk may have cut short his tenure in Scranton, his presumptive (acting) successor showed little in the way of enlightened damage control last night. Jo Bennett, where are you?

No matter how the Supreme Court rules in a closely watched real-world case involving allegations of widespread sex discrimination, the distaff members of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office seem to have a lucrative class action in the making. Women who head departments are routinely excluded not only from important decisions, but also from pick-up games of mini-basketball featuring moves that evoke “Magic [sic] Jordan.” And, at the same time, both new and not-so-new female hires are referred to with indelicate terms beginning with the letters “w” and “b.” Only a week after Michael Scott’s departure to the Centennial State and its delicacies, Deangelo Vickers seems intent on recasting the office (and The Office) in his own “just the guys” image.

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Behind the Scenes

December 01, 2010 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

Blawg 100With The Office closed (i.e., not airing a new episode) when it became this blogger’s turn to write again, he found himself with a dearth of fresh material.  So, instead of quantifying hypothetical litigation value, this post will tie up a loose end from his last entry in October, when he cryptically referred to “where he look[ed] forward to spending some time later th[at] month.”  Whether or not the “gilded cage” metaphor was apt (apologies to both my favorite Canadian band and the English painter Evelyn De Morgan), that location can now be identified as the set of our favorite sitcom!

Thanks to the generosity of Rainn Wilson — who donated a two-person set visit to charity — and Glenn LaForce of LexisNexis — who shared his silent-auction spoils — I was fortunate to witness in person the filming of an upcoming episode of The Office.  Even if that behind-the-scenes experience doesn’t improve the quality of my posts, it certainly left me with a much greater appreciation for how the production process works.

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Categories: HR / Real-Life Cases / The Office

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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July 02, 2010 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0. Now that we’re into the summer season of recycled shows, we’ll assume that all stale claims are time-barred.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Or so we thought. With a doubleheader of The Office repeats on last night’s schedule, this blogger was getting ready to post a rehash of two episodes from last season: The Banker and Sabre. (Before I forget, allow me to give obligatory yet sincere props to two of my colleagues, Brian Kurtz in Chicago and Chris Butler in Atlanta, for their prior write-ups on those shows.)

But news recently reached me, out here west of the Mississippi, that Steve Carell may be ending his run as our favorite show’s most (in)famous character, Michael Scott. That, in turn, has suggested that I write on a recurring and unavoidable topic: change.

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Diabolical Laughter

April 09, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 3 COMMENTS

This week’s episode was another repeat, and it was just as cringe-worthy as the first time it aired. Doug Hall did a fabulous job covering this episode in first run, so I’ll just use this space to talk about an issue that has been ongoing since the very first episode of the series: the personality clash between Dwight Shrute and Jim Halpert.

In tonight’s show, Dwight, jealous of Jim’s promotion, continues to pursue his Diabolical Plan to get Jim fired (or at least demoted). Although the conflict has since resolved (to the extent the Dwight-Jim war can) by Jim’s returning to the sales staff, it’s still worth talking about. What could Jim, as a manager, do when he encounters an employee like Ryan, who is determined to undermine his authority? Or, worse, like Dwight, who is determined to have him fired?

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More On Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

March 13, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 2 COMMENTS

In the truth is stranger than fiction category, I recently re-discovered a case in which a Hooter’s waitress in Florida sued her employer for tricking her about a prize in a beer-selling contest.  The waitress thought she would win a Toyota if she sold the most beer.  However, after she won the contest, her manager blind-folded her; led her to the parking lot; and presented her with a plastic “toy Yoda” character from Star Wars.  The manager claimed the prank was an April Fool’s joke.  Funny, right?  Apparently, the employee didn’t think so– she sued her employer, a Hooter’s franchisee, for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation.

We all know that subjecting employees to ridicule and disappointment is not a great motivational technique.  But, as the employer learned in this case, conducting business this way can also lead to protracted, and ultimately, expensive litigation.  While cases usually aren’t this egregious, the lesson is the same:  “I was only kidding” is never going to be your strongest defense.

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Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

February 28, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 6 COMMENTS

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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A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

February 15, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Finally, the strike is officially over. And, according to the New York Times, new episodes of “The Office” will start airing on April 10, 2008. Thank God! In the meantime, there are plenty of real life cases with facts so bizarre that they rival the plots dreamed up by Hollywood writers. To get us started, check out my friend John Phillips’ recent blog entry on the Philadelphia anchorwoman who appeared on Dr. Phil; e-mailed photographs of herself in a bikini to a colleague; and allegedly slugged a cop.

Here’s a shocker: the network terminated her contract. Presumably, she had a “morals clause” in her employment agreement. A “morals clause” is standard in celebrity contracts (or so I’m told in the attached article). Essentially, these clauses provide that an employee can be terminated for engaging in behavior that will cause scandal, public contempt, or disrepute. One can only imagine what type of trouble Michael would get into if he had a contract with a “morals clause.” Certainly food for thought….

Categories: Policies / Real-Life Cases

The Negotiation Revisited

August 17, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $350,000

Employers who fail to fire employees who tape pepper spray canisters, nunchucks, and throwing stars to the bottom of their desks are playing with fire. Expensive fire. Sure, Roy started it, and I’m glad Dunder Mifflin fired him. But what about Dwight? After all, the man kept weapons at work for God knows how long. And if Roy can prove that Dunder Mifflin knew about them and failed to take action, then he just might have a claim for damages (e.g., eye doctor appointments, pain and suffering, etc.). Maybe Toby should go ahead and start to prepare for this deposition, too, while he is at it.

To make matters worse, Dwight admits having the weapons during Toby’s investigation into the incident. The time has come for Dunder Mifflin to part ways with Dwight. And unlike they did with Roy, the bosses should spring for the fifteen bucks and just FedEx Dwight’s last check to him.

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