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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Job Posting

July 29, 2010 - by: Brian Kurtz 6 COMMENTS

Alas, repeats. My able colleague, Jaclyn West, wrote about this week’s episode — The Chump — in her excellent post of May 14. But fear not. There is big news this week that demands its own post. NBC has confirmed that Steve Carell will leave The Office when his contract expires in 2011. Michael Scott’s seven-year reign as Scranton branch manager is coming to an end.

Michael Scott This blog has cause for concern. At least 80% of the potential liability we find in each episode is attributable directly to Michael Scott. Who can replace him? We need someone who can be combination leader/lawsuit-magnet. We need the next anti-Toby. Who’s ready to step up and be the new “World’s Best Boss” in Scranton? Consider the candidates:

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The Scranton Vampire Chronicles

Litigation Value: Settling various claims related to Dwight’s bat hunting = $30,000; replacing shredded textbook = $100; convincing your coworker you’re a vampire = priceless.

Given that a colleague of mine has already thoroughly covered the employment law issues in last night’s repeat, let’s rewind to one of my favorite episodes from Season 3 — Business School. This episode takes us back to the Dunder Mifflin days before Ryan Howard went corporate (and then back to temp), before the entire gang danced down the aisle, and obviously before Pam nursed someone else’s baby. In this “oldie but a goody,” Michael Scott (armed only with candy bars and a boom box) faces a room full of hostile college students while the rest of the gang battles one pint-sized vampire bat. Is it any surprise that the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” directed this episode?

The episode begins with Michael’s delight at being invited to be a “visiting professor” during one of Ryan’s business school classes. What Michael doesn’t know is that Ryan’s sole motivation for the invitation is extra credit. Things quickly deteriorate as Michael pelts students with candy, shreds a student’s textbook, discovers Ryan’s grim prediction for Dunder Mifflin’s future, and ends his speech with a dramatic “SUCK ON THAT!” Something tells me the student in question won’t be content with simply replacing his missing textbook pages with life lessons. Instead of extra credit, Ryan ends up with a new seat in the annex with celebrity-crazed Kelly Kapoor as punishment for declaring that the company will be obsolete in 5-10 years. As Julie discussed in her original analysis of this episode, Dunder Mifflin probably won’t face any liability for Michael’s antics because Ryan did not engage in any protected activity giving rise to a retaliation claim.

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A Tale of Two Repeats

April 02, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Very Little.  Destination Wedding = $25,000; Niagara Falls Ceremony after Escaping Wedding = $100; Diapering Angela’s Cat = Priceless.

Given that last night consisted of two repeats, two of my colleagues have already done a wonderful job of covering issues raised by the Dunder Mifflin gang’s antics last night. Although last night’s episodes did not give rise to much in the way of litigation value, here’s a rundown of my top 10 things not to do at the office (or anywhere else, for that matter).

  1. Offer to stick spicy food (or anything else) into a coworker’s rectum.
  2. Discuss a coworker’s nipples. On the other hand, I definitely agree with Michael that no coworkers should be stimulating Pam’s nipples at Dunder Mifflin.
  3. Offer to bring a nippleless shirt to the office. Why Meredith has a nippleless anything in the car is a mystery to me. Of course, it may be the newest craze from the JWow collection.
  4. Pretend to shoot coworkers, even with your finger. This is particularly true if you intend to simulate gruesome brain splatter.
  5. Openly discuss the fact that Stanley has two lovers and you don’t have any.
  6. Decide to sleep nude in two coworkers’ bed, even if you are secretly eradicating mold and remodeling their kitchen for free.
  7. Announce that a coworker must have needed an “afternoon delight” with his wife.
  8. Discuss the relative hotness of a coworker as she stands uncomfortably next to you.
  9. Spread a rumor that a coworker has an elephant heart.
  10. Negotiate a parenting contract with a former office flame, even if your biological clock is ticking so loudly you awaken to find yourself cradling a gourd on your beet farm.

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Classic Rewind

January 22, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 6 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: In the aggregate, $100 million; most of which is punitive damages

OK, so tonight’s episode – The Banker –- didn’t really bring us much new material, but it indeed highlighted five years of near-catastrophic employee-relations failures. As Dunder Mifflin verges on economic collapse, a potential investor dispatches its self-proclaimed “fact-checker” to conduct a due-diligence assessment of the company’s “H.R. liabilities.” While interviewing HR representative Toby Flenderson, the fact-checker poses a series of provocative questions that invoke Toby’s vivid recollection of why he so dearly hates his job. In essence, we rewind the tape a few years. Let’s take a look:

  • Racial/national origin harassment/discrimination: Michael Scott mocking Kelly Kapoor’s Indian heritage.
  • Inappropriate and/or sexually-suggestive language and innuendos: Michael’s skilled reliance on the phrase “that’s what she said” to transform seemingly innocuous comments into sexually charged double entendres; Michael’s lewd references to Stanley Hudson’s teenage daughter; Michael exposing himself to Pam; Meredith Palmer exposing herself to the entire office; and Michael kissing Phyllis Lapin to dissuade her from complaining to human resources about his sexually offensive language, and then immediately rewarding her graciousness with sexually offensive language.
  • Sexual harassment/sexual orientation harassment: Michael kissing the visibly-horrified Oscar  Martinez on the lips to illustrate his tolerance of same-sex relationships; again, Michael kissing Phyllis; and, yet again, Michael’s unbridled references to “that’s what she said.”
  • Age harassment/discrimination: Several mean-spirited references to Creed Bratton’s age and his “distinct old man smell.”
  • Workplace violence: Andy Bernard ramming his fist through the wall; Pam slapping Michael; Kelly slapping Michael; Jim Halpert slapping Dwight Schrute; Dwight punching Michael, and later pounding him in the face with a shoe; Phyllis hurling a wad of paper into Angela Martin’s face; and Oscar shoving Angela.
  • Potential workers’ compensation claims: Michael running down Meredith in the employee parking lot; Andy plunging from a transfer truck into an empty refrigerator box; and Michael ramming the warehouse forklift into a storage rack, causing a cascade of flying metal, boxes, and paper.
  • Health and safety violations: Dwight purposely igniting a trashcan paper fire to instigate an unscheduled fire “drill”; and, again, Michael ramming the warehouse forklift into the storage rack.
  • Property damage/waste of company resources: Michael and Dwight bouncing a watermelon from the office roof onto a parked car; several mutinous employees shoving paper, books, and supplies to the floor; an employee shattering a plate glass window with a toy-gun projectile; again, Michael overturning the storage rack; Jim disassembling Dwight’s desk and contents (classic) and enveloping them in holiday wrapping paper; and Jim encasing Dwight’s stapler in a Jell-O mold.
  • Invasion of privacy/HIPAA violations: Dwight demanding that each employee publicly identify his or her personal medical condition to determine its legitimacy.
  • Supervisor-subordinate romantic relationships/inappropriate public displays of affection: Dwight making out with Angela; Angela making out with Andy; Kelly making out with Ryan; Michael’s painfully inappropriate workplace relationship with his boss, Jan (and discussing his repeated vasectomies before the entire office); and Jim’s and Pam’s eternal office romance, despite Jim’s supervisory role (OK, we turn a blind eye to this because we really like them).
  • Hostile work environment/miscellaneous inappropriate and outrageous behavior: All of the above, and too many to mention.

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Office Scuttlebutt

September 18, 2009 - by: Matt Rita 2 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $100,000

A new season of The Office is upon us!  Although Michael Scott is hardly a man for all seasons (and unlikely to be confused with Thomas More, or any other saint), in last night’s premiere he provided us with yet another object lesson on employment law.  This time the principle involved was employee privacy, or rather the lack thereof. In Michael’s zeal to shed his “third wheel” status, he set out to spread gossip about virtually everyone at Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch — other than himself, of course.  His rumors had nothing to do with company matters and everything to do with the personal lives of his staff members. For example, Michael would find it difficult to explain how the paper business has anything to do with Toby’s alleged virginity, Kelly’s supposed eating disorder, Creed’s asthmatic scuba diving, or the imaginary person inside of Kevin “working [him] with controls.”

The main focus of the rampant “scuttlebutt” was Stanley’s extra-marital relationship with a woman who had been his rehab nurse. Although an employee’s off-duty sexual conduct is a private matter, Michael saw fit to make himself “an equal part of it” — much as he did with Pam’s not-so-secret pregnancy. By disseminating such information to co-workers, Michael may have committed the tort of invasion of privacy.

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The Envelope, Please

June 04, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Litigation cost: $0 – $50,000

Even though NBC is taking a break from The Office this week, we aren’t. The latest webisode, “Blackmail,” may be short but it packs a potential punch for Dunder Mifflin.

Creed wreaks quiet havoc by gathering his colleagues’ best-kept secrets and using them to extort favors or a paltry $6 from each of them. Nonetheless, it’s blackmail. So far, even though Creed appears to be violating the law, Dunder Mifflin can probably skate by without liability since there is no indication that anyone in a supervisory position had reason to know or should have known about the nefarious plot unfolding in the workplace. And, Creed was not acting within the scope of his duties.

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Lose Weight, Gain a Lawsuit

September 26, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

Litigation value: ($500,000 when all is said and done, mainly to Phyllis and Kelly)

Wow, it certainly didn’t take the folks at Dunder Mifflin long to get into midseason form! And from a liability perspective, that’s not good.

When corporate initiated a weight-loss competition among all the branches, the Scranton branch sprang into action. While some people slacked off after a while, others like Kelly took the competition very seriously, even buying a tapeworm from Creed. (By the way, what was that if not a tapeworm? I’m guessing one of those worms at the bottom of a tequila bottle.) Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, Michael and Dwight took the competition too seriously, stepping over several lines on their way to certain liability and money damages. (And let’s not forget that Phyllis called Corporate to complain about Dwight making her walk five miles, and the response was to have Michael read an apology/clarification paragraph statement -– so let’s put a few bucks on them, too.)

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Sex, Flatulence, and Blogging About Work!

June 12, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Dwight Shurte and Creed Bratton from The Office both have blogs. Dwight warns readers that they shouldn’t be reading his blog while they are at work. Employment law attorney Troy Foster reminds HR and employers that they should have policies about employees blogging about work as well as at work.

With another week with no episode of The Office, I had to find something interesting to get your attention!  In that endeavor, I stumbled across a couple of blogs — one by Dwight and the other by Creed.

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The Job – Somewhat Revisited

September 21, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Almost time for the season opener! Be sure to tune in next week for my recap of what promises to be a hilarious show. As for today, business calls and I’m in New Orleans with a malfunctioning computer. I’m re-posting my earlier post from the season finale. More to follow just as soon as my technology is up and running!

LITIGATION VALUE: $50,000 (with the potential for a whole lot more)

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