Getting a Little (Maid of the) Misty

October 08, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0 for Dunder-Mifflin (consider the bullets dodged for now), but I’d love to be the plaintiffs’ lawyer representing those poor souls who got ice from the machine in which Kevin stuck his formerly Kleenex-boxed feet

I don’t normally cry at weddings, but I could see making an exception for the long-anticipated nuptials of “The Office” sweethearts Pam and Jim. Not because these characters found true love — they’re fictional after all. No, my tears were for the fact that the wedding takes the entire Office out of the office and on the road to Niagara Falls! (“Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch…”  - it’s an old Three Stooges routine, ask your parents.) How is any self-respecting employment lawyer — or me for that matter — supposed to write an employment law blog about an episode that doesn’t involve work? Well, I shouldn’t have worried, Michael Scott et al. never fail to deliver!

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Spotting Your Michaels (and Dwights)

June 12, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

After watching last night’s repeat of The Office, I decided that some of my clients’ stories this week were more titillating. That’s what she said. (Couldn’t resist.)

The theme of calls that I got this week almost made me feel like I was on the show. I looked for cameras (and Ashton and Howie) more than a few times. It started bright and early Monday morning. At my client’s business office, a supervisor started teasing his subordinate about her weight. He told her that the economy had not gotten in the way of her eating, that there were kids in whole counties that go without that she could feed if she skipped a meal, etc. Michael, is that you?

Tuesday and Wednesday were even better (of course, just from a “I can’t believe this train wreck is happening” perspective). A different client’s regional manager (yes, regional manager) called a lunch meeting to boost morale. He noted that purpose in his email. At the lunch, he began making fun of people. He poked fun at their physical appearances, their ethnicities, and their poor work ethic. He wasn’t random about it; the folks he was joking about were being laid off — that week. Better: His boss was at the lunch. And, he laughed and laughed. Michael? David (but without judgment)?

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Going for Broke

April 24, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0 – 300,000

Well, it didn’t take long for the Michael Scott Paper Company to go broke. Surprisingly, it wasn’t because of any judgments for sexual harassment, unfair competition, or defamation.  Not surprisingly, it was because of irresponsible pricing.

During its short tenure, Michael’s company could have been sued several times.  Unfortunately, it is possible that Dunder Mifflin might be on the hook for some of those potential claims because it entered into a de facto merger with the Michael Scott Paper Company.  Hopefully, David Wallace thought of that when he agreed to accept all of Michael’s demands.

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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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That’s Not the Ticket

March 13, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $25,000 – $50,000

Michael was unusually evil in the Golden Ticket episode of The Office. Juries don’t like evil managers, so Dunder Mifflin is probably looking at another judgment, this time in the range of $25,000 – $50,000.

Michael’s outrageous conduct in getting Dwight to fall on his sword (not literally this time) for Michael’s failed golden-ticket idea was unabashedly wrong. If Blue Cross hadn’t saved the day by making Dunder Mifflin their exclusive office supply provider, Dwight would have been fired (or as we call it, constructively discharged), and his claim against Dunder Mifflin would have been even higher.

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The Taming of the Schrute

February 26, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $50,000

The last time we wrote about the Crime Aid episode of The Office, we advised that Dunder Mifflin might not be on the hook for any potential judgments for anything that happened in this episode. But on further review, I’m not so sure that was right. It’s entirely possible that a jury could find Dunder Mifflin responsible for Dwight Schrute’s continued antics that culminated this week with him letting the air out of her tires (completely unnecessary and the funniest part of the episode).

After all, Dwight is part of management, and it’s not like this was the first time (or second time, or third time…) when his conduct has been grossly out of line. Plus, it’s one thing to put a garbage bag over Meredith’s head and assault her -– Meredith isn’t a sympathetic victim. When you start messing with Phyllis, you might upset a jury. And Bob Vance.

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It’s a Setup

November 21, 2008 - by: Dominic Verstegen 1 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $500,000 to Toby; maybe a couple of bucks to Pam.

Welcome back Toby to The Office! For your trouble, how about a sizable money judgment courtesy of Michael Scott, Dwight Schrute, and the good folks at Dunder Mifflin! Invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault . . . the list goes on and on. You’d think with all this action, Toby’s facial expression would have changed at some point during the episode. Alas, it’s not in his repertoire.

It’s been a while since we’ve had an episode containing such blatant improper behavior — and clear liability on behalf of the company. Whether it was Michael threatening Toby, Michael setting up Toby for a crime, or even Ryan and Kelly just making out in front of Toby (that really explicit, lippy making out, like in Top Gun — nasty), Toby endured a lifetime’s worth of emotional distress in just one workday.

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Michael Scott Lives in Provo

August 01, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

Much like I wondered whether Santa was real as a kid, I often wonder if there is a real-life Michael Scott out there somewhere. This week, I think that I found the answer!

When sales took a slump for a Provo, Utah, company, a supervisor came up with the idea of “waterboarding” one of the salespeople to motivate the workforce. The supervisor — let’s just call him “Real-Life Michael” — had coworkers hold an employee down. Then, Real-Life Michael poured a gallon of water over the salesperson’s head and face. Real-Life Michael then told his workers that they should work as hard at making sales as their tortured coworker did at trying to breathe. It is Michael!

Of course, unlike in Scranton — where I don’t think they have a courthouse — the employee filed a lawsuit against the company. He is going to make some money.

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Phyllis and Bob’s Wedding

February 08, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 6 COMMENTS


First off, let’s hear it for the HR Hero in last night’s episode. As he put it, “Toby, yeah!” I’m not sure what is going to happen with that story line, but it can’t be good that Hollywood thinks it’s funny for the HR manager to land an attractive model. Or could it?

So Michael ruins the wedding, who would have guessed it? With Michael’s egregious behavior, you might hope that Phyllis could make a claim against Dunder Mifflin. After all, if she can be fired for boorish conduct at an office party, why can’t she sue the company when Michael ruins her party? But she can’t. Being a jerk is not illegal. As much as I wish that it were, it just is not.

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