Take One for the Team

April 09, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $60,000

There was just too much going on last night on The Office. Two Episodes, multiple story lines, and several unlawful actions that could lead to big money damages against Dunder Mifflin -– and the new Michael Scott Paper Company.

On the “Dream Team” episode, Michael and Pam set out to start the new company.  Unfortunately for Michael, the company got off on the wrong foot when his own Nana refused to invest in the company, and when he gave Pam all she needed to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the new firm. It was one thing for Michael to wear his bathrobe to greet Pam for her first day at the company; but when he flashed her a few minutes later, he created a hostile work environment. Pretty good first hour for the company. Let’s call that $50,000, just because Michael hasn’t had a chance to drive the verdict any higher yet.

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A Really Hostile Environment

January 16, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $ 30,000

There is no question that Jim Halpert, acting manager at Dunder Mifflin Scranton while Michael Scott was away, did a terrible job of diffusing and/or preventing a fight on company property on “The Duel” episode of The Office. Fortunately, the fight between Dwight Schrute and Andy Bernard didn’t lead to any serious injury. Otherwise, we might be talking about more than $30,000 this week.

Both Dwight and Andy could make claims that the company should have intervened and stopped them from brawling. Realistically, neither of these dorks’ claims is going anywhere. No jury is giving Dwight’s big head and beet-stained teeth big money because Dunder Mifflin didn’t protect him from Andy’s 4 mph Prius attack. That said, companies can be held liable for fights between employees at work in some circumstances, so we’ll say $30,000 just to show that there’s something, although not much, to their claims.

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From My Cold, Dead Hands

July 17, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

You might have heard that the Supreme Court recently threw out the District of Columbia’s decades-long ban on handguns. Of course, there are limitations. If you are mentally insane or a convicted felon, then you’re out of luck. So, many of our favorites on The Office probably still can’t pack heat into the Capitol — thank goodness.

But with this change in policy, many of our clients have asked if we are going to start seeing employees trying to carry more than the normal baggage to work. Of course we will. The media have covered it but good, and employees (especially the ones with time on their hands) are looking to establish boundaries. (Why does it sound like I’m talking about raising my kids?)

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Categories: Workplace Violence

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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