It’s, Like, Dishonest

March 07, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  Dunder Mifflin faces potential FTC sanctions for Erin and Pete’s fake “like” marketing campaign on Facebook.

“Customer Loyalty” aired back in January, and I highly recommend Kristin’s post questioning the validity of Dwight’s loyalty pledge.  I might add that such a pledge is probably not necessary considering that most states recognize in some form that employees owe their employers a duty of loyalty to act in the employer’s best interest, regardless of whether the employees have executed any restrictive covenants.

I was interested in a short scene where flirty duo, Erin and Pete, rejoice over their marketing scheme to generate fake “likes” for Dunder Mifflin’s Facebook page.  Turns out, this is not only dishonest, but also may violate FTC guidelines as well as Facebook’s internal policies.  In 2009 the FTC determined that paying for positive online reviews without disclosing such constitutes deceptive advertising.  This determination could be extended to prosecuting firms that generate fake “likes” for Facebook pages.  On August 31, 2012, Facebook announced that it was ratcheting up its automated detection and removal of “likes” that may have been generated “by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk likes.”  These measures are going to be necessary.  IT research firm, Gartner, Inc., predicts that by 2014, 10 to 15 percent of online reviews will be fake or paid for.

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Breaking up is hard to do

February 18, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: David Wallace, get your metaphorical wallet out. You’ve got settlement checks to write for Erin ($2,500-$5,000 for sexual harassment and potentially a lot more for invasion of privacy), Pete ($5,000-$10,000 for sex discrimination and a touch of IIED), and Alice (the weakest claim, but still worth $1,000 or so for nuisance value).

What a night in Scranton. Dwight has roped Angela into acting as caregiver for his elderly aunt (best quote of the night: “Loose braids reflect a loose character”), and Pam is interviewing for an office manager job (which turns out to be a receptionist position in disguise) for the Michael Scott of the Philadelphia real estate industry. There’s plenty of material there, but I’ll leave that for one of my esteemed colleagues to discuss on re-runs, because I want to talk about the A plot.

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The Return of the Nard Dog

February 07, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0. Though there is all sorts of questionable stuff going on, none of it should expose Dunder Mifflin itself to any claims or liability.

In tonight’s episode, “Couples Discount,” no one really covers themselves in glory.  You’ve got The Office denizens seeking to goof off one last time before Andy returns, and pretending about being in relationships with each other to get discounts on foot treatments. You’ve got Andy covering up with David Wallace that he’s been gone for 3 months. And as far as everyone’s favorite couple, Pam and Jim, are concerned, you’ve got Jim learning that Pam has kept a secret from him relating to her relationship with Brian the boom man — and his reaction is to run back to Philly. Layer on top of that Erin’s awkward efforts to break up with Andy, and all-in-all it was not an uplifting episode.

But hey, you’re not reading this blog to hear me kvetch, you’re here to learn about the labor and employment aspects of the episode. Well, I don’t really see anything here that would put the good folks at Dunder Mifflin on the hot seat. If anything, the company would have the ability to take action against Andy to recoup the funds that he was paid while he was out of the office without authorization. It wasn’t cool for Andy’s co-workers to lie to him about what went on during his absence in order to trip him up when he spoke to Wallace, but there isn’t much Andy could do about that.

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Die Hard … with a Christmas vengeance

December 06, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

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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What NOT to wear to an interview

September 27, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $0.00, but only because Pete has a conscience and Daryl is a cinephile.

In last week’s season premier, new guy Pete was compared to Jim, while other new guy Clark was compared to Dwight. I’m all good with the former comparison, but the latter is waaaay off. Dwight beds his women using blunt Shrute charm. Clark’s ruse to seduce Erin was plain creepy. Thankfully Pete stepped in because Andy was clueless.

If not for Pete’s intervention as makeup man, Dunder Mifflin may be defending a lawsuit by Erin for negligence. Consider the facts. Branch manager Andy acquires knowledge that one of his young male employees intends to lure one of his young female employees back to his apartment, ply her with wine, doll her up in sexy outfits, and film her. Andy’s response? Here, take my credit card. (Shaking head sadly.)

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Dunder Mifflin, We Hardly Knew Ye

August 30, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

It is August 30, 2012, the night of a blue moon, and I’m a bit blue with the news earlier in the week that this will be the last season for The Office. So I thought I’d crack open a Blue Moon (OK, not literally — taking some literary license here) and share some thoughts about what made the show — and writing this blog — so enjoyable.

The heart and the soul of The Office, what made it work so well (while also giving us ample material for the blog), was the Michael Scott character. Although he was the Regional Manager, and thus “the boss,” Michael was an underdog, and everyone likes an underdog (except President Snow from The Hunger Games — but I digress). Lonely as a child, unlucky in love, clueless in the extreme about the political sensitivities his comments offended, we rooted for him to succeed — in large part, I think, because we knew that he had the best of intentions and cared deeply for his “family” at work. If his character had not been so sympathetic (as was sometimes the case in the first season), the show would not have enjoyed its success or longevity. Plus, virtually every employee in the office would have sued the company for some sort of harassment or emotional distress if they hadn’t felt the same way.

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Moments Like This

June 01, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: It’s been quite a season. ‘Nuff said.

We’re into the summer re-run season, and I’m still rolling with my love of the top-10 list. And even though we missed Michael Scott this season — oh, how we missed him — our favorite crew of paper salesmen and women definitely delivered their share of laughs and cringeworthy episodes. So here are 10 of my favorite moments, organized (roughly) in order, from Season 8 of The Office.

10. Angela calling Child Protective Services on Pam because Pam drank herbal tea out of a cup that once held coffee and might have trace amounts of caffeine in it — and then telling Pam about the call during their pregnant ladies’ walking club. I’m guessing CPS didn’t consider that tip a high priority.

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Ooh, Ooh, She’s Magic

April 13, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much from this episode, but if Nellie sticks around her apparent prejudice against the Irish and Hispanics could lead to some sticky legal situations.

Another week, another party in Scranton. Last night on The Office, Robert had the party-planning committee working hard on a party to welcome Nellie into the fold. Problem is, the party-planning committee doesn’t actually like Nellie. Nor does anyone else in the office, for that matter. So Pam comes up with the idea to throw a terrible party for Nellie. The gang strings up black streamers, buys bad food (a carrot cake — it’s like a salad bar, as Kevin indignantly points out), and hires Creed to play “all originals.” And the piece de resistance — they hire a magician, because Nellie hates magicians.

But in the process of helping Nellie move into her new apartment while the party-planning goes on, Jim and Dwight learn that Nellie — prejudice against the Irish and Oscar notwithstanding — isn’t all bad. In fact, much of her abrasive attitude is rooted in having to start her life over in a new country after getting her heart broken by “a bloody stage magician.”

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Whoa Nellie!

March 29, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: None, though as a practical matter, Dunder Mifflin may have to make good on all those raises Nellie promised.

As tonight’s episode is a rerun, I thought I’d go back and review the March 15th episode (“Get the Girl”) that we managed to miss somehow. (For a recap of tonight’s repeat, “Mrs. California,” check out Kristin Gray’s excellent post from when it first aired — http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/2011/12/02/stand-by-me/).

Two plots run throughout this episode: Andy’s impetuous decision to drive to Florida to try to convince Erin to return to Scranton with him, and the shocking revelation that Nellie has been hired at the branch — and how she takes advantage of Andy’s absence to stage a coup and take his job. The first plot, though interesting for those of us who want the show to reach some sort of resolution about Andy and Erin already, has no obvious employment law liability issues. Erin no longer works for Dunder Mifflin, plus she’s sweet on Andy, so no risk of a sexual harassment claim against the company there.

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Nervous (About) Nellie

February 16, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  $100,000 – perhaps more if Todd Packer sleeps his way to a VP position.

All sorts of sexual shenanigans occur throughout tonight’s episode, “Tallahassee.” Most of the action takes place in the aforementioned capital city of Florida, where Dwight, Jim, Stanley, Ryan, Erin, and Kathy are attending a meeting regarding Sabre’s plan to open retail stores. And who else do we find at the meeting but walking employment law disaster Todd Packer and Nellie Bertram, the slightly … quirky, shall we say, friend of Jo who memorably interviewed for the regional manager position in Scranton. Todd and Nellie engage in the most blatant inappropriate conduct of the episode — and Nellie’s wink to Todd after she says she is “waiting for someone to wow me” hints at perhaps even worse.

Before we get to the meeting itself, let’s talk about Dwight’s behavior that morning. Concerned about making it to the meeting on time, Dwight takes it upon himself to wake up the rest of the team members by using duplicate keys to enter their hotel rooms and rouse them from their sleep. He frightens Kathy, suffocates Stanley and exposes Erin to Ryan’s drowsy amorous advances (until Ryan realizes he is on camera — “not cool!”). Though Dwight gets his comeuppance via a detailed prank courtesy of Jim, that doesn’t change the fact that his co-workers might well file claims against him (and the company, as he is the head of the project) based on his invasion of their privacy, infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery.

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