Time to say goodbye (for now)

Kristin Starnes Gray

Series Litigation Value: various harassment, discrimination, and bizarre workers’ compensation matters = astronomical; future employment matters due to Dwight taking over as Regional Manager = enough to keep Dunder Mifflin’s attorneys busy for many years to come; seeing the older, hopefully wiser, family man version of Michael in the final episode = priceless.

After years of breaking down Dunder Mifflin’s employment law issues, your loyal bloggers will each (in turn) bid a final goodbye to the series with a farewell post. But don’t get too teary–we’re only saying goodbye for now until our new EntertainHR blog begins in June. For my final farewell to The Office, I can’t help but look back on my favorite Dunder Mifflin moments and all that I will miss about this hilarious series.

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Finale

May 17, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation Value:  Bless your heart if you’re still keeping track at this point.

This blog has always focused on bad behavior.  We tease out employment law issues by writing about the characters who do things in the workplace that one simply does not do. So last night’s series finale of the The Office poses quite a challenge in that most of the characters, with a few notable exceptions, exhibited exemplary behavior.

Take Dwight, for example. There was hope early on when he gave Kevin his “Get Out”  that he might fuel a few lawsuits. It was not to be. By the end of the episode, Dwight was careful to turn Pam and Jim’s departure into a termination just so he could offer them a generous severance package. After all these years, Jim has gone from Dwight’s mortal enemy to his bestest mensch.

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No nonsense

Kristin Starnes Gray

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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The Beginning of the End Revisited

April 18, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: Possible workers’ comp claim for Dwight for injuries sustained in trying to cross a “flaccid cord”; groundwork established for a breach of contract suit by Nellie if Andy follows through on his intent to fire her

Tonight’s “previously aired” episode takes us back to the first episode of this, the last season of “The Office.”  The film crew apparently took the summer off, as the characters start the episode by discussing what they did over the summer (including Kevin’s unfortunate encounter with a turtle in the parking lot), Andy returns from a corporate Outward Bound adventure, and we are introduced to Clark (“new Dwight”) and Pete (“new Jim”), the “new guys” of the title.  We also get the first hint of what later will be developed as trouble in paradise between Jim and Pam. (Personally, I cannot believe that, after finally getting those two together, much to the viewers’ delight, the producers decide to manufacture problems between them.  But I digress.)

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Stanley Knievel

April 11, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value:  Stanley can sue Dwight blind for his bull dart assault.

This is an employment law blog.  So when tonight’s episode opened, and I saw that Dwight had shut down the building’s elevator for repair, leaving the stairwell as the only option to reach Dunder Mifflin’s offices, I thought it might be interesting to explore the ADA’s regulations on elevators in public buildings.  Or maybe Stanley’s adamant refusal to attend the school district sales pitch was an opportunity to discuss the definition of insubordination. Such interesting choices.

And then Dwight shot Stanley with a triple dose of bull tranquilizers, encased him in bubble wrap, and slid him down the stairs headfirst.

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Bye Bye Bye

March 29, 2013 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: Michael’s Antics over the Years = Too Many Zeros to Count; Collateral Damage from the Dwight/Jim Feud over the Years = Some Unfortunate Workers’ Compensation Claims; Getting a Super-Sized Finale = Priceless.   

Given that my esteemed colleague, Jaclyn, has addressed the Moving On episode twice now, I thought I would focus on our upcoming finale. The word is that, although we will get to see Kelly and Ryan again before all is said and done, our beloved Michael Scott will not be returning for the final episode. I would like to think that he and Holly are too busy happily raising the children Michael has long dreamed of (and even considered adopting on his own until he heard about the pesky waiting period). Regardless, here is my wish list for the finale.

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Draw me a butt

January 31, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 2 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation Value: Frank can collect from Pam and Dwight the cost of cleaning paint off his truck.

“Shouldn’t someone get fired for this?”

That’s the question Pam asked while confronting the large orange butts that someone (Frank) spray-painted on her warehouse mural in “Vandalism,” the second of two new episodes tonight. Of course someone should get fired, but Pam and Dwight will be joining Frank in the unemployment line after drawing revenge art on his truck. A trail of poop? Pam, you’re better than that.

Frank’s behavior during his HR interview and in the parking lot raises a more serious issue — workplace violence. The man is dangerous. A January 2011 FBI bulletin notes that in most cases workplace violent offenders do not suddenly “snap.” Instead, the study claims, they follow a path that can begin with behavior such as brooding or making odd writings and drawings. Frank seems well on his way down the path. His near physical attack on Pam was one of the show’s rare departures from any hint of comedy. In the real world, Dunder Mifflin would contact the police, terminate Frank immediately, and notify building security to watch for him on or around the property.

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Watch your back, Oscar

January 04, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: $250,000 in attorneys’ fees and to settle Oscar’s claims–unless his guilt and his desire not to embarrass himself or out the Senator by disclosing their affair keeps him from making a big deal out of it.

A holiday season rerun of “The Target,” first covered by my colleague Brian Kurtz a few weeks ago: The main story line, and the one with potential for labor and employment exposure, centers on Angela enlisting Dwight’s help in locating a “hit man” to kneecap Oscar in payback for his affair with Angela’s husband, the Senator. Dwight doesn’t realize that Oscar is the intended target at first, and when he learns that is the case, he ultimately is successful in helping stop the “hit” before it can occur (though he does get a kick in the shins from Angela).

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Cheer or fear

December 28, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $0.00 for a drunk, passed out (and likely concussed) Daryl, but Jim has a cause of action for battery against Belsnickel.

My colleague, Doug Hall, wrote about the “Dwight Christmas” episode three weeks ago when it first aired.  I agree with him that employers need to be careful with their holiday social events to minimize potential liability.  However, it appears that many states, including Pennsylvania, will not impose what is commonly called “social host” liability.

In the Congini case, the employer hosted a Christmas party where it served free alcohol to employees and guests.  A visibly intoxicated employee left the party in his car and was seriously injured in an accident.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the employer could be held liable, but only because the drunk employee in that case was a minor.  The court reaffirmed the general rule that an adult host serving alcohol to his adult guests should not be liable for injuries they subsequently cause or suffer.

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Die Hard … with a Christmas vengeance

December 06, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: $50,000 or so, depending on how much harm comes out of an essentially unsupervised holiday party

It is the annual Christmas episode of The Office, and it’s bittersweet as Jim and Pam talk about how this will be the last Christmas party for the both of them at Dunder Mifflin Scranton–much like it will be our last Christmas show with this group. The episode feels a bit thrown together at the last minute compared to previous Christmas shows, just like the office’s party itself. The entire office has somehow overlooked that today is the day for the Christmas party, forcing the party-planning committee to scramble to come up with something.

In the absence of any better idea, the planning committee (minus Angela) seizes on Dwight’s idea to hold a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, just like he experienced as a child. Dwight manages to put on quite the production, complete with a visit from Belsnickel, the fur-wearing, switch-wielding Christmas gift-giver. (I, along with the denizens of The Office, was surprised to find out that Belsnickel is part of a real southwestern German tradition.) In the meantime, Jim is anxious about getting to Philly to start his new job, while Andy and Erin drift further apart, with Erin finding a shoulder to cry on, and to watch Die Hard with, when Andy informs her that he plans to stay a couple of extra weeks in Barbados (or is it the Bahamas) to “figure this life thing out.”

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