Double Trouble

November 06, 2009 - by: Jaclyn West 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: up to $5,000-7,500 to settle Erin’s sexual harassment claim; $2,000 for sexual harassment training (again); up to $10,000 to settle with Michael for failing to protect him from Pam’s slap … and Pam might be spending some of her own money on defending against Michael’s battery claim.

This week on “The Office,” we saw our favorite Scranton residents engaged in their usual bad behavior. Dwight seemed to actually be on fairly good behavior, but of course we soon learned that he was only nice to his coworkers so that they would “owe him,” and he could later cash in the favor to have Jim fired. Did anyone not see that coming? Still, there’s no law against bringing bagels to work! No, what concerned me about the episode were the interactions between Ryan and Erin, and between Pam and Michael.

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He’s a Mother Lover

October 22, 2009 - by: Matt Scott 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: de minimus damage award (after spending $50,000 to “successfully” defend the lawsuit)

He rarely disappoints, and this week was no different. Michael Scott was in rare form in this week’s issue of The Office, “The Lover” (or should this episode have been titled “The Mother Lover” for all you SNL fans). Michael revealed to Jim that, since meeting her at Pam and Jim’s wedding, Michael has been engaged in a love affair with Pam’s mother. As Pam quickly learns, while it might be fun to office gossip when it involves someone else, when it involves you, not so much. (Oh, by the way, do you know anyone who would be excited to find out Michael was dating their mother? I don’t. Except, of course, Dwight.)

But it did give us one of the show’s best lines of all time: “Do not talk to me that way. I am your boss. And I may someday be your father.” Where’s Darth Vader when you need him? So to recap: Is it unlawful to sleep with the mother of one of your subordinates? Probably not. Is it a really bad idea? Oh yeah!

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Growing Up Grotti

October 16, 2009 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Oscar’s damages–climbing; diversity and harassment training from a trained professional–$2,000; backing off the mafia–priceless.

It’s a new episode of The Office that has Michael, Dwight, and Andy convinced that an insurance salesman is part of the mafia based on “his southern Italian heritage.”  While it was entertaining for viewers to watch the trio (and Pat the Mechanic) battle a perceived low-level mafia shakedown, it is certainly not office-appropriate conduct.  Looks like our friends at Dunder Mifflin need a refresher on national origin discrimination, and I am sure Oscar would agree.  National origin is not limited to the country where a person was born, but it also includes the country from which a person’s ancestors came.  In addition, national origin discrimination can include discrimination because the individual possesses the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.  An employee’s objective appearance can form the basis for an unlawful discrimination claim.  For example, the Third Circuit found that an employee was discriminated against as Hispanic even though the employee regarded himself as a Sephardic Jew.

Although Mr. Grotti does not have a national origin discrimination claim (given that he is not a Dunder Mifflin employee), Dunder Mifflin should strongly consider diversity and harassment training, because this is not the first time Michael has exhibited a lack of sensitivity when it comes to an individual’s national origin.  For example, I am sure most of us remember Michael asking Oscar if there is a “less offensive” term for “Mexican” or when Michael told everyone that Oscar was the voice of the Taco Bell dog.

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Might Doesn’t Make Right, Dwight

October 01, 2009 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

This week’s episode — “The Promotion” — had nothing to do with advancement in the workplace. In fact, the only thing it promoted was how to get fired. When the episode ended, I identified five Scranton employees whom David Wallace should discharge if he wants to minimize potential liability:

Dwight. He opened the episode fantasizing about placing Jim in a “triangle choke hold.” Later on he disrupted the workplace with an impassioned attempt to enlist his coworkers to “drag [Jim] out of his office.” The Office is funny, but workplace violence … not so much. Dwight’s threats were even more egregious because they were unprovoked, and Dwight repeatedly targeted a single employee. Prudent employers take a zero-tolerance approach to workplace violence. An employer that retains an employee it knows has threatened coworkers is begging for costly litigation and bad press. Just about every company not named Dunder Mifflin would have let Dwight go that day.

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Dueling Complaints

September 25, 2009 - by: Jody Ward-Rannow 7 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE:  $50,000 (in litigation costs on Darryl’s claims); damages continuing to pile up on Oscar’s claims.

In tonight’s episode, “The Meeting,” we watched as Michael interfered with Jim’s attempt to obtain a promotion and falsified documents in Jim’s personnel file (clearly a problem, but not the most interesting problem in this episode). We also watched as Toby and Dwight conducted a stakeout of Darryl’s house to investigate the workers’ compensation claim Darryl filed after he “fell off a ladder” in the warehouse.

This is “The Office,” so we knew the stakeout was a bad idea the moment Dwight suggested it, and Dwight and Toby did not disappoint. The stakeout resulted in Toby and Dwight making vulgar and inappropriate statements about Darryl’s sister. Later, we learned that Darryl lied in his workers’ compensation forms about how he was injured. Dwight threatened to file a complaint with corporate about Darryl’s falsified workers’ compensation forms. Darryl, in turn, threatened to file a sexual harassment complaint with corporate on behalf of his sister. Both men filed complaints, and Toby gets to do a lot of paperwork.

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Recipe for Disaster

July 10, 2009 - by: Kylie Crawford 1 COMMENTS

On last night’s rerun episode, Lecture Circuit, Michael, whose office had the highest sales, traveled to other Dunder Mifflin offices to share his “secret recipe for success.”  Along the way, Michael manages to offend every single woman he meets.

Poor Pam is the is the main target of Michael’s harassment.  He asks her to take her shirt off or tie her sweater around her waist, calls her his hot roadie, tells her to picture Karen naked, and talks to her about Holly’s breasts.  Leaving no woman behind, Michael makes several inappropriate comments about Karen’s pregnancy (which we discussed last time the episode aired) and uses “sugarboobs” as a mnemonic device to remember the name of a woman in his audience.

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So You Think You Can Dance?

May 08, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  $250,000

The “Café Disco” episode of The Office might as well have been called “The Hostile Work Environment.” Or “The No Work Environment.” Dunder Mifflin Scranton turned into a coffee house dance bar at the expense of any corporate productivity.

A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences workplace harassment and fears going to work because of the offensive, intimidating, or oppressive atmosphere. An isolated comment is generally not enough to create a hostile work environment. That’s why it’s tough to assign an accurate value to a half hour episode of The Office sometimes. Not this week.

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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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Quitting Time

March 20, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $60,000

Michael, Michael, Michael. What went wrong? What happened to turn you into this new, bitter man? And why couldn’t you have quit before you cost the company thousands more in potential judgments?

Before we get to Michael’s actionable conduct, let’s first touch on the new guy, Charles Minor. Fortunately, it is almost impossible for a manager to file a claim for sexual harassment, because the new Dunder Mifflin vice president was the target of some pretty disturbing (read: awesome) and unwanted flirtation. Kelly made no bones about her quest to get the “black George Clooney” to buy her a prime rib; and Angela wasn’t much better, stealing Charles’ scarf and being overly creepy and affectionate toward him. Even though Charles may not have a claim against the company, though, others might. The risk in this situation is that Kelly’s and Angela’s shenanigans could lead to an unintended victim claiming to be offended by their actions.

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A Comeback Story

February 02, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Employment law attorney Troy Foster examines the “Stress Relief” episode of The Office, which aired after the Super Bowl. He finds that Dundler Mifflin could be liable to Stanley for the stress Michael and Dwight cause him, to Meredith for Michael’s boorish jokes, and to Oscar for Michael’s weekly homophobic and racist comments

Litigation Value: $615,000 Total

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