It’s Not Easy Being Green

December 03, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Blawg 100Litigation Value: Front-row seat for the epic Michael v. Oscar battle of the wits = $0; coffee from the office coffee bar = a shocking $8 per cup;  watching Dwight fail miserably at drinking coffee with his toes = priceless.

In this week’s episode, Oscar and Michael battle it out to see who is the smartest person in the office, while Dwight and Pam face off about Dwight’s new cost-saving measures in the building. Let the Scranton games begin.

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Gags

October 15, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 2 COMMENTS

Kidnapping day laborers = possible jail time for Dwight; giving Oscar another paid vacation and use of a company car= $15,000; settling claims related to Andy’s sex-ed course = more than just some free pizza; watching Michael try to convince an elderly stranger that they were once lovers = priceless.

Between Michael tracking down his former girlfriends over an STD scare and Andy using a sex-ed course to find out if Erin is practicing abstinence, last night’s shenanigans certainly made for an expensive and unproductive day for Sabre. One of the many lessons from last night’s episode is that romantic relationships between employees can lead to serious awkwardness and even potential liability. For example, after noticing a cold sore, Michael began a mission to notify his past girlfriends that they might have herpes. This list of old flames included his former supervisor, a human resources manager, and even Oscar (which we’ll get to shortly). I must admit, though, that I enjoyed Michael interrupting Jan’s ridiculous sing-a-long by abruptly stating , “I have herpes.”

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2010 Dundies

August 27, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: A little recognition goes a long way, especially if there’s an unlimited bar tab…

As the weeks roll by, we find ourselves closer and closer to the season premiere and Michael Stott’s last year at the office. But right now, we’re still in the midst of the long, hot summer, and last night was another rerun. Last night we re-watched “St. Patrick’s Day,” which we covered earlier this year. It got me thinking about job satisfaction. In addition to work-life balance, which we discussed on first run, what else do employees need to feel happy in their jobs? Recognition! Now that’s something Michael does very well, especially when the annual Dundie Awards roll around. Here are my picks for 2010:

The Brangelina Award goes to the hottest couple in the office!  Their roller coaster romance gives us plenty to talk about at the water cooler when we should be selling paper. Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor!

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Words Matter (More than Lithium)

August 19, 2010 - by: Matt Rita 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: A plaintiff (and high school) class consisting of “Scott’s Tots,” each of whom could claim entitlement to four years of college tuition — less an offset for the value of a laptop battery. (Thanks, Mr. Scott.)

Greetings, faithful readers! You know the summer’s going fast and the nights are growing colder — at least in some parts of the continent — when this blog circles back on itself not once, but twice. While watching the most recent repeat of The Office, I seemed to recall writing about someone else within Ford & Harrison who had previously written about this episode. Or maybe I just read his or her prior post. Whatever the case, the fact that I can’t remember how many levels in we are (can you say “Inception”?) suggests that it’s high time for a new season!

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The Wedding, Part II

July 23, 2010 - by: Matt Scott 1 COMMENTS

Well, it’s a little difficult to write about the perils of working in Scranton with Michael Scott as your boss when the entire office is attending a wedding, but here goes. After watching last night’s repeat episode of Jim’s and Pam’s wedding, I can’t say that getting married to a coworker is always a bad thing (I met my wife when I was clerking for a company after my second year of law school, and we will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary next month, and as Chris Rock has joked, “If my dad hadn’t sexually harassed my mom, I wouldn’t be here”).

Nor is inviting your coworkers to a wedding an absolute no-no (my wife and I obviously did that, too, and no one got into too much trouble). That said, office romances and non-work functions often bring trouble. Many employers worry about liability for conduct that occurs between employees at non-work sponsored functions, and rightly so. Many times, sexual harassment cases draw on activities that occur away from the workplace, as do all types of discrimination cases. Workers let their hair down when they’re away from the office, and these social activities can provide fertile ground for discrimination claims.

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Office Scuttlebutt Redux

June 24, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 2 COMMENTS

Additional Litigation Value:  $150,000 ($50,000 each for Stanley and Andy; $25,000 each for Kelly and Erin)

Tonight’s episode – Gossip – is a repeat from last season.  My law partner, Matt Rita, thoroughly covered Michael Scott’s shenanigans in the first run, astutely pointing out how Michael’s self-generated rumor mill could give rise to an invasion of privacy claim.  Let’s pile on another potential tort claim -– defamation.

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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Litigation Value:  training management on whistleblower protections — $10,000; settling customer claims due to the flaming printers — more than Sabre would like to think about; finding out Holly’s coming back — priceless.

The printers aren’t the only things heating up at Sabre. Jo’s mission to root out the whistleblower had more than one person sweating in Scranton. Tensions were high given Pam’s admission to a reporter’s wife, Darryl’s misguided attempts to pick up a not-so-cute copy editor, Kelly’s infamous tweet, and Andy’s video. Unfortunately for Sabre, a variety of laws protect employees who choose to “blow the whistle” on employer wrongdoing.

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Blowing the Whistle

May 06, 2010 - by: Jody Ward-Rannow 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $50,000 for the office meeting Michael called to discuss his sex life with his employees.

In this week’s episode of The Office, we saw two storylines, both of which provide interesting employment law issues: Michael’s quest to find out if Donna is cheating on him and Darryl’s attempt to play a prank on Andy that turns out to resemble a whistleblower complaint.

Michael is concerned that his new girlfriend, Donna, is cheating on him because he thinks she is too good-looking for him. So, in classic Michael fashion, he holds an office meeting to ask everyone what they think. Of course, Michael cannot resist telling the office how much sex he is having with Donna. This meeting is an obvious problem in the office. Michael, the boss, forced his subordinates to listen to him talk about his sex life. If any person in that room was offended, Michael will have a sexual harassment complaint on his hands. This type of sexual harassment requires that the harassment was “severe and pervasive” so as to create a hostile work environment. The meeting shown in the episode likely wasn’t severe enough to create a hostile work environment (and most employees actually seemed to participate willingly), but if Michael continued his banter throughout the day, then the employees could have a claim.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

April 23, 2010 - by: Matt Scott 3 COMMENTS

“This Is Why You Don’t Date Co-Workers” — that’s what tonight’s episode of The Office should have been called. In an amazing twist of fate, this may be the only episode of The Office in which Michael Scott is (a) the voice of reason and understanding and (b) does virtually NOTHING offensive. Instead, this episode was all about the perils of intra-office dating.

Andy Bernard, the consummate goofball, almost literally has to twist Michael’s arm to get him to take Andy’s office paramour, Erin, to lunch for Secretary’s Day so Andy can show Erin how much he cares for and appreciates her (not sure why he thinks lunch with Michael shows this, but he does). But Erin’s so completely off-the-wall and mundane lunch ramblings left even Michael struggling to make conversation with her. And in doing so, Michael stumbles into telling Erin about Andy’s former engagement to Angela, which apparently Andy had not gotten around to mentioning to Erin. And for Andy, things went downhill from there.

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Sabre Rattled – Y’All Come Back Now

February 11, 2010 - by: Doug Hall 6 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $2,500 for Meredith’s workers’ comp claim (those paper cuts can sting!) and more grist for the mill for potential future claims.

Tonight’s episode has the Scranton office continuing to deal with Dunder Mifflin’s acquisition by Sabre International. This time, it is the arrival of Sabre’s colorful president, Jo Bennett, and her two rather large dogs. Much of the episode focuses on the duel between Michael and Jim, as Mrs. (not Ms.) Bennett decides there is no reason to have co-Regional Managers at the branch (which shows already that she is more astute than Dunder Mifflin’s prior management). What starts as a battle to retain the manager’s role ends up being a contest to return to sales, as they realize they can do much better financially under Sabre’s policies as a salesman. At the end of the day, Michael ends up back in the manager’s role while Jim ends up where he belongs, in sales, doing battle with Dwight.

Although the contest between Michael and Jim doesn’t involve potential liability to the company, it points out the issues that can arise when rank-and-file employees earn more than their managers, including a disincentive for the best employees to move into managerial roles. And Dwight and Ryan could be exposing themselves, if not the company, to possible claims arising out of their conversation with Nick the IT guy — Dwight’s false potentially defamatory statement that Jim is under criminal investigation for “molesting people via the Internet” and Ryan’s threat of physical violence if Nick doesn’t turn over Jim’s computer password.

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