The Beginning of the End Revisited

April 18, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: Possible workers’ comp claim for Dwight for injuries sustained in trying to cross a “flaccid cord”; groundwork established for a breach of contract suit by Nellie if Andy follows through on his intent to fire her

Tonight’s “previously aired” episode takes us back to the first episode of this, the last season of “The Office.”  The film crew apparently took the summer off, as the characters start the episode by discussing what they did over the summer (including Kevin’s unfortunate encounter with a turtle in the parking lot), Andy returns from a corporate Outward Bound adventure, and we are introduced to Clark (“new Dwight”) and Pete (“new Jim”), the “new guys” of the title.  We also get the first hint of what later will be developed as trouble in paradise between Jim and Pam. (Personally, I cannot believe that, after finally getting those two together, much to the viewers’ delight, the producers decide to manufacture problems between them.  But I digress.)

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Stanley Knievel

April 11, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value:  Stanley can sue Dwight blind for his bull dart assault.

This is an employment law blog.  So when tonight’s episode opened, and I saw that Dwight had shut down the building’s elevator for repair, leaving the stairwell as the only option to reach Dunder Mifflin’s offices, I thought it might be interesting to explore the ADA’s regulations on elevators in public buildings.  Or maybe Stanley’s adamant refusal to attend the school district sales pitch was an opportunity to discuss the definition of insubordination. Such interesting choices.

And then Dwight shot Stanley with a triple dose of bull tranquilizers, encased him in bubble wrap, and slid him down the stairs headfirst.

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Draw me a butt

January 31, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

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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Not-so-nice lice

January 11, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

Litigation Value: Nada, but a close shave; it’s lucky Dwight is clumsy and didn’t manage to insecticide-bomb his co-workers.

Whoa, Mama. It’s been a rocky start to the New Year for the staff of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office. With Jim working part-time and spending days on end in Philadelphia, Pam is struggling to cope with the kids (Cece and Phillip at home, and everyone else at work) all on her own. And things go from bad to worse when Cece comes down with a case of lice, which she spreads to Pam, who unwittingly gives the nasties to half the office.

Meredith is the first victim, and the entire office jumps to the conclusion that she’s to blame, while Pam guiltily keeps quiet about Cece’s condition. (Well — wouldn’t you assume it was Meredith?) Taking the bull by the horns, Meredith shaves her head, while Erin conducts a lice removal seminar for the rest of the victims (Angela, Oscar, Creed, Pete and Stanley) — leading to some hilarity as the infected group spends the day with mayonnaise on their heads.

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Watch your back, Oscar

January 04, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and to settle Oscar’s claims–unless his guilt and his desire not to embarrass himself or out the Senator by disclosing their affair keeps him from making a big deal out of it.

A holiday season rerun of “The Target,” first covered by my colleague Brian Kurtz a few weeks ago: The main story line, and the one with potential for labor and employment exposure, centers on Angela enlisting Dwight’s help in locating a “hit man” to kneecap Oscar in payback for his affair with Angela’s husband, the Senator. Dwight doesn’t realize that Oscar is the intended target at first, and when he learns that is the case, he ultimately is successful in helping stop the “hit” before it can occur (though he does get a kick in the shins from Angela).

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Cheer or fear

December 28, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $0.00 for a drunk, passed out (and likely concussed) Daryl, but Jim has a cause of action for battery against Belsnickel.

My colleague, Doug Hall, wrote about the “Dwight Christmas” episode three weeks ago when it first aired.  I agree with him that employers need to be careful with their holiday social events to minimize potential liability.  However, it appears that many states, including Pennsylvania, will not impose what is commonly called “social host” liability.

In the Congini case, the employer hosted a Christmas party where it served free alcohol to employees and guests.  A visibly intoxicated employee left the party in his car and was seriously injured in an accident.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the employer could be held liable, but only because the drunk employee in that case was a minor.  The court reaffirmed the general rule that an adult host serving alcohol to his adult guests should not be liable for injuries they subsequently cause or suffer.

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Die Hard … with a Christmas vengeance

December 06, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: $50,000 or so, depending on how much harm comes out of an essentially unsupervised holiday party

It is the annual Christmas episode of The Office, and it’s bittersweet as Jim and Pam talk about how this will be the last Christmas party for the both of them at Dunder Mifflin Scranton–much like it will be our last Christmas show with this group. The episode feels a bit thrown together at the last minute compared to previous Christmas shows, just like the office’s party itself. The entire office has somehow overlooked that today is the day for the Christmas party, forcing the party-planning committee to scramble to come up with something.

In the absence of any better idea, the planning committee (minus Angela) seizes on Dwight’s idea to hold a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, just like he experienced as a child. Dwight manages to put on quite the production, complete with a visit from Belsnickel, the fur-wearing, switch-wielding Christmas gift-giver. (I, along with the denizens of The Office, was surprised to find out that Belsnickel is part of a real southwestern German tradition.) In the meantime, Jim is anxious about getting to Philly to start his new job, while Andy and Erin drift further apart, with Erin finding a shoulder to cry on, and to watch Die Hard with, when Andy informs her that he plans to stay a couple of extra weeks in Barbados (or is it the Bahamas) to “figure this life thing out.”

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Conspiracy theory

November 30, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Potential Liability: Angela and Trevor are going to jail. Dwight too?

Not even Rainn Wilson’s recent video could keep us from watching this week’s episode, “The Target,” which featured a murder-for-hire plot, a giant comment-card pyramid, and Dwight’s pixelated genitalia. Yikes, indeed.

Angela has discovered that her husband, The Senator, is having an affair with Oscar. She does not react well and enlists (who else?) Dwight to procure the services of Trevor, a hapless wannabe killer for-hire. Spoiler alert: Trevor does not kill Oscar. In fact, Trevor does not even maim Oscar. This is in part due to Trevor’s incompetence, in part due to Oscar’s obvious self-defense training, and in part due to Dwight’s last-minute intervention to prevent Oscar from being knee-capped. Oscar is unharmed, but that is not going to stop Angela and Trevor from going to prison, and possibly Dwight, too.

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Don’t research and drive – “Andy’s Ancestry”

October 05, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 0 COMMENTS
Adam Klarfeld

Andy and Nellie’s feud continued in last night’s episode (“Andy’s Ancestry”) and Nellie’s revenge strategy was actually kind of funny. In response to Andy’s directive to research his (and eventually everyone else’s) ancestry, Nellie made up various historical figures that were supposedly related to the staff members. Andy was initially excited to learn about his shared ancestors with Michelle Obama; but after Oscar pointed out that Andy’s ancestors therefore likely owned slaves, Andy became a little conscious of his “bossiness” for the rest of the episode.

While Andy’s continued harassment of Nellie may or may not be actionable (after all, it does not seem to be based on any protected class; he just doesn’t like her), the biggest threat to the company in this episode seems to be Nellie’s texting and driving. When she starts to read a text from Andy while driving Pam’s car, Mrs. Halpert wisely grabs the phone. Nevertheless, texting and driving is a major problem for all of us. In 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that 28% of all traffic accidents were because of talking or texting on cell phones while driving. 

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Andy Goes Soft

April 19, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $200,000 for Andy’s severe emotional distress. Possible future litigation for his termination.

Not subtle. Not subtle at all. Nellie has already usurped Andy’s manager status. Then she hauls Andy and his coworkers into a conference room and writes “IMPOTENCE” in bright red letters on the flip chart. Robert California sits there, amused by the whole spectacle.

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has four elements: (1) extreme and outrageous conduct (2) inflicted intentionally or recklessly (3) that caused emotional distress, and (4) the distress was severe. Applying these factors to this episode, Andy has a viable action against Dunder Mifflin.

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