Stanley Knievel

April 11, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

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

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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Watch your back, Oscar

January 04, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

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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Conspiracy theory

November 30, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

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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Andy Goes Soft

April 19, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS

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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A Flush and a Fluke

January 13, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  Dwight manhandling Gabe = a pricey negligent retention/supervision lawsuit; Andy trying to convince Oscar to cook the sales books = $700 for an expedited severance agreement and release in full for Andy; Kevin and the Einsteins claiming all the glory at trivia = one priceless fluke.

What happens when an office is $800 short of meeting its sales goal on the very last day of the quarter? For our Scranton friends, it means a road trip to a gay bar in Philadelphia for one epic night of trivia. Anxious to impress Robert California, Andy is desperate to hit his numbers at any price, including buying a carload of paper himself and even asking Oscar to fudge the sales numbers for him.

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Sabotage!

January 05, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation value: Nothing in this episode, but Dwight is perilously close to civil and criminal liability for his computer activities.

Jaclyn West wrote about this episode, Doomsday, two months ago when it originally aired. Her post discussed “motivation” and the inevitable sexual harassment of warehouse Val, either at the hands of Gabe or Darryl.

Dwight’s “Accountability Booster” raises a different employment law issue. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 prohibits, among other things, intentionally transmitting a code or program and causing damage to a computer system. Dwight’s doomsday program would have sent information to Robert California that was harmful to the Scranton employees. This likely does not violate the CFAA, but it reminds us that Dunder Mifflin needs an acceptable use policy to govern computer use by its employees.

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Green Thumb, Brown Nose

October 17, 2011 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

“The Garden Party” episode was light on employment litigation but heavy on workplace psychology. Poor Gabe. His capacity for humiliation knows no limits. I wasn’t sure he could sink lower than his public dumping at the hands of Erin last season, but then we witnessed his repeated sycophantic toasts of Robert California. Sad, right?

Maybe not. Before we feel pity for Gabe, what if he’s on to something? Does brown-nosing in the workplace work? Some research suggests that, yes, it does. A 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that “ingratiation” (read: sucking up) by job interview candidates had a positive impact on the interviewer’s perceived fit, while self-promotion had a nonsignificant impact.

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Straight Shooter

May 14, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 8 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Take out your checkbook, Jo. Major bucks to Andy for negligent retention and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Dwight should be prepared to pony up as well, since Andy will be sure to hit him with assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims. Andy might even find himself the owner of a beet farm.

GunfighterWOW is all I can say. Who else saw this coming? We’ve expressed our concern about Dwight’s weapons stash before and worried that his predilection for keeping things like nunchuks and Chinese throwing stars squirreled away around the office could lead to a serious incident of violence. This week was a very close call. But let’s start from the beginning.

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Ain’t No Business Like Snow Business

December 10, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 2 COMMENTS

Blawg 100Litigation Value: Not much, yet; but, potentially millions if Dwight goes on a murderous rampage.

Is hurling snowballs really that big a deal?! Last week, it was the Cincinnati Bearcats mascot; this week, it’s Dwight Schrute and Jim Halpert — one gets arrested, the other two undergo corrective counseling.

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