Product Recall Revisited

August 24, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 1 COMMENTS

Remember when I said that being a jerk wasn’t illegal? Well, that may change. According to an article in the L.A. Times, legislatures in New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington are considering bills which would give employees the right to seek damages if their employer creates an “abusive work environment.” I’m not really sure what “abusive work environment” will mean, but it looks like these bills may create a cause of action for bad manners.

And, even worse, it appears that there will be no shortage of cases. In an online contest sponsored by the AFL/CIO, employees submitted horror stories about their bosses for the chance of winning an all expense paid trip to Vegas. My personal favorite was the boss who treated his employees to lunch by taking them to a discount warehouse to eat free samples. Another good one was the lawyer who called his office every morning while brushing his teeth and “conducting other business” in the bathroom. But these didn’t win the grand prize. That went to the company who, during a fire, did not allow its help desk employees to immediately evacuate the building. Instead, the company required that the employees leave their desks every five minutes in order of seniority, which resulted in the most junior employees having to remain in a smoldering, smoke-filled office for up to forty-five minutes.

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Categories: Workplace Violence

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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Safety Training (with Guest Blogger Jason Loring)

April 12, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $40,000

Duty calls and Julie is not able to blog this week due to work. I’m a fellow labor and employment attorney with Ford & Harrison and also a fan of the show. This week’s episode certainly did not disappoint.

The episode starts with the Dunder Mifflin employees gathered around for a “safety meeting” that is intended to teach the “office workers” about safety. (Can’t you just feel the lawsuit coming?) Darryl, the meeting leader, is on crutches. Why? Michael kicked a ladder out from underneath Darryl while he was reaching for a supply box on a top shelf. Not a good idea. If Michael was acting in the scope of his employment when he kicked out the ladder, Dunder Mifflin could certainly be on the hook for all of Darryl’s medical expenses, which could cost upwards of $40,000. Given Michael’s speckled past as a less than stellar manager, Dunder Mifflin might also be exposed to possible claims of negligent hiring and negligent retention of Michael. read more…

The Injury

March 30, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value $ 30,000 (or if Dwight’s injuries are permanent, then $500,000)

I don’t know whether a concussion suffered when rushing off to “save” your boss after he burns his foot on a George Foreman grill would be considered a workers’ compensation injury, but if it is, Dunder Mifflin (or, more accurately, their insurance carrier) is looking at paying Dwight some money. Under the workers’ compensation laws, Dunder Mifflin is probably on the hook for Dwight’s medical expenses and a percentage of his lost wages. On the bright side, these damages are far less than they would be in a tort action, which, luckily, Dwight would be precluded from bringing against the Company.

And no, a slightly toasted foot is not a disability under the ADA. While many impairments that you never dreamed would be considered a “disability” are often covered by the law, I just can’t see how this one would be. Nevertheless, Michael’s training to promote awareness about individuals with disabilities is probably not going to do much to get Dunder Mifflin out of the hot water it got itself into when Dwight re-did the health plan.

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