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 www.nbc.com.  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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Breaking up is hard to do

February 18, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: David Wallace, get your metaphorical wallet out. You’ve got settlement checks to write for Erin ($2,500-$5,000 for sexual harassment and potentially a lot more for invasion of privacy), Pete ($5,000-$10,000 for sex discrimination and a touch of IIED), and Alice (the weakest claim, but still worth $1,000 or so for nuisance value).

What a night in Scranton. Dwight has roped Angela into acting as caregiver for his elderly aunt (best quote of the night: “Loose braids reflect a loose character”), and Pam is interviewing for an office manager job (which turns out to be a receptionist position in disguise) for the Michael Scott of the Philadelphia real estate industry. There’s plenty of material there, but I’ll leave that for one of my esteemed colleagues to discuss on re-runs, because I want to talk about the A plot.

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What NOT to wear to an interview

September 27, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $0.00, but only because Pete has a conscience and Daryl is a cinephile.

In last week’s season premier, new guy Pete was compared to Jim, while other new guy Clark was compared to Dwight. I’m all good with the former comparison, but the latter is waaaay off. Dwight beds his women using blunt Shrute charm. Clark’s ruse to seduce Erin was plain creepy. Thankfully Pete stepped in because Andy was clueless.

If not for Pete’s intervention as makeup man, Dunder Mifflin may be defending a lawsuit by Erin for negligence. Consider the facts. Branch manager Andy acquires knowledge that one of his young male employees intends to lure one of his young female employees back to his apartment, ply her with wine, doll her up in sexy outfits, and film her. Andy’s response? Here, take my credit card. (Shaking head sadly.)

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Turf War; Smurf War

May 03, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Wait, Dunder Mifflin might actually be a plaintiff in an employment dispute? In a surprising turn of events, the company may have claims against Andy Bernard for stealing a major client and against Jim and Dwight for stealing from the company. Not surprisingly, Dunder Mifflin is looking at liability ($150,000+) for Robert California’s “filthy” messages to his subordinate, Nellie. Also, Pam’s acquisition of Nellie’s cell phone raises several privacy issues in the workplace. WARN Act violations could also cost the company another $100,000.

This episode was like a law school exam. So many issues; so little time.
First, we see the Syracuse and Scranton salespeople fighting over the Binghamton office’s (former) clients. The Binghamton office seemingly closed with little warning. Assuming that Dunder Mifflin employs over 100 full-time employees overall and terminated more than 50 at this site, the company needed to comply with the notice requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and any New York-state counterpart. Damages under the federal WARN Act include lost wages (up to 60 days per employee), a civil penalty, and attorneys’ fees.

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Ooh, Ooh, She’s Magic

April 13, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much from this episode, but if Nellie sticks around her apparent prejudice against the Irish and Hispanics could lead to some sticky legal situations.

Another week, another party in Scranton. Last night on The Office, Robert had the party-planning committee working hard on a party to welcome Nellie into the fold. Problem is, the party-planning committee doesn’t actually like Nellie. Nor does anyone else in the office, for that matter. So Pam comes up with the idea to throw a terrible party for Nellie. The gang strings up black streamers, buys bad food (a carrot cake — it’s like a salad bar, as Kevin indignantly points out), and hires Creed to play “all originals.” And the piece de resistance — they hire a magician, because Nellie hates magicians.

But in the process of helping Nellie move into her new apartment while the party-planning goes on, Jim and Dwight learn that Nellie — prejudice against the Irish and Oscar notwithstanding — isn’t all bad. In fact, much of her abrasive attitude is rooted in having to start her life over in a new country after getting her heart broken by “a bloody stage magician.”

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Pyramid

March 01, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 1 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $150,000. This isn’t Hooters, Dwight. Requiring Kathy to flirt with customers is sexual harassment. Additional damages if Todd Packer plays his sexual predator role as well as we suspect he can.

“Bloggers are gross. Bloggers are obese. Bloggers have halitosis.”

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Tighten Your Saddles

February 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Cathy showing Jim the “Talla-Nasty” = yet more fodder for Jim’s sexual harassment lawsuit; five dots = a murky texting area and potential lawsuit for Darryl; and watching Dwight work himself into a human bedbug trap = priceless.

This After Hours episode has the gang engaging in conduct that should make any human resources professional cringe. Tighten your saddles, because it is bound to be a bumpy ride. While the Scranton branch is working late, the Florida team is hitting the hotel bar scene for some debauchery. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the fact that the conduct occurs outside the workplace does not necessarily free an employer from liability, particularly when a supervisor instructs her employees that bar attendance is “compulsory.” 

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Nervous (About) Nellie

February 16, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  $100,000 – perhaps more if Todd Packer sleeps his way to a VP position.

All sorts of sexual shenanigans occur throughout tonight’s episode, “Tallahassee.” Most of the action takes place in the aforementioned capital city of Florida, where Dwight, Jim, Stanley, Ryan, Erin, and Kathy are attending a meeting regarding Sabre’s plan to open retail stores. And who else do we find at the meeting but walking employment law disaster Todd Packer and Nellie Bertram, the slightly … quirky, shall we say, friend of Jo who memorably interviewed for the regional manager position in Scranton. Todd and Nellie engage in the most blatant inappropriate conduct of the episode — and Nellie’s wink to Todd after she says she is “waiting for someone to wow me” hints at perhaps even worse.

Before we get to the meeting itself, let’s talk about Dwight’s behavior that morning. Concerned about making it to the meeting on time, Dwight takes it upon himself to wake up the rest of the team members by using duplicate keys to enter their hotel rooms and rouse them from their sleep. He frightens Kathy, suffocates Stanley and exposes Erin to Ryan’s drowsy amorous advances (until Ryan realizes he is on camera — “not cool!”). Though Dwight gets his comeuppance via a detailed prank courtesy of Jim, that doesn’t change the fact that his co-workers might well file claims against him (and the company, as he is the head of the project) based on his invasion of their privacy, infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery.

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Perfectenschlag

February 10, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Nothing too outrageous last night, but are we seeing the beginnings of a couple of sexual harassment claims for Jim and Val?

Another week has gone by, and our favorite paper and printer sales team has heroically managed to continue to avoid discussing the bizarre behavior of their CEO at his party a few weeks ago. (What happens at Robert California’s, stays at Robert California’s, I guess.) But we’re certain to see more R.C. shenanigans in the coming weeks, because the head office is planning to open storefronts and Andy has tasked Dwight with coming up with a crack sales team to concoct a concept and open the stores. Dwight picked a group that, arguably, contains the five most dedicated and talented workers in the office — and Andy immediately rejected Dwight’s team because he couldn’t run his operation for three weeks without those folks. Andy told Dwight he could take a group of employees he deemed “less essential” — including Kevin and Kelly.

Naturally, Dwight was upset that Andy rejected his choice team and saddled him with, in Dwight’s opinion, a group of useless people. But since Andy’s the boss, Dwight couldn’t override him. So Dwight did what he does best — undermined Andy’s authority. Dwight announced the team in a way that he knew would upset the group, then unleashed the angry employees on Andy. Andy was forced to retreat from his previously chosen team, and he and Dwight picked the group together — Stanley, Jim, Erin, Ryan and Kathy. (Andy, this isn’t legal advice, but just a tip — Dwight wants your job and he’d love to undermine you all the way out the door. If you continue putting him into positions where he can assert his “authority” over his co-workers, he’s going to capitalize on those opportunities and you’ll come off looking like you can’t control him. Dwight has always been a problem employee and probably always will be, barring some major personality change. It’s fine to try to engage an employee like that — in fact, it’s a good idea. At the end of the day, though, everyone needs to be clear about the fact that you are the boss, not Dwight.)

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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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