No nonsense

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.

read more…

No woman, no cry

November 19, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Dwight’s sexual and sexist comments regarding women = additional fodder for a hostile work environment claim (not to mention Clark’s potential claims); Jim taking calls about starting a different company on Dunder Mifflin time = a potential breach of the duty of loyalty; taking another trip to crazy town with Jan = priceless.

With David Wallace unavailable (and wisely so), Dwight has the opportunity to land a major new client and boost Scranton’s sales. Unfortunately for Dwight, the potential client is female and Dwight has difficulty relating to business women. Never fear–it’s Pam to the rescue with a crash course on dealing with high-powered, shoulder pad-wearing businesswomen. It’s no surprise that Dwight has difficulty with Pam’s training but, regardless, all bets are off when the secret potential client turns out to be Jan. Dwight may have landed the sale against all odds but his success doesn’t come without consequences. Here’s my own crash course for Dwight on dealing with a professional woman.

read more…

He Creeps Me Out, But He Might Be a Genius

Litigation Value: likely to skyrocket with Robert California’s new sex-fueled approach to paper sales.

The word around The Office is that James Spader will be returning next season as Robert California, a character Paul Lieberstein (a.k.a. Toby) has described as “this uber-salesman that has a power to convince and manipulate like a high-class weirdo Jedi warrior.”  It appears he’ll be hired as the new manager only to take over the Company and become its new CEO in the blink of an eye. As a fan of Spader and his quirky role on Boston Legal, this blogger could not be more excited about this casting development.

When we last saw Robert on the season finale, he had some unusual advice for the sales team. “There is no such thing as a ‘product.’ There is only sex. Everything is sex. You understand what I’m telling you is a universal truth.” As my fellow blogger, Matt Rita, pointed out in his recent post, this certainly does not bode well for the Company’s litigation costs. I am sure Robert will give us plenty of material for this blog. To return the favor, here is my advice (or universal truths) to Robert on dealing with the gang at Dunder Mifflin Sabre.

read more…

Bippity Boppity Give Darryl the Zoppity

Next on our list of possible candidates for Michael Scott’s recently vacated position is Darryl Philbin, also known as “Mittah Rogers” (but only by Michael). Darryl has come a long way since we first met him in Season 1 as he watched Dwight suddenly emerge from a box in the warehouse. Here’s my list of pros and cons for Darryl as boss.

Pros

read more…

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.

read more…

Hunter Caught a Cougar

May 29, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE:  $200,000 (should Hunter lose interest in Jan and sue); $30,000+ (in emotional distress for those who had to witness Jan’s “love dance”).

You know it’s a funny episode when you laugh out loud, even though you are all by yourself — and you’ve seen it before!  For the second time, “Dinner Party” does not disappoint.  Tonight’s episode of  The Office introduces us to yet another surreptitious hook-up:  Jan and her former assistant, Hunter — who has recorded a CD titled, “The Hunter.”  His song about “that night” could have been a harmless-enough love ballad, except that we see Jan enraptured by its sound when she plays the song for her guests.  She was having such a time of it that I was embarrassed for her (forgetting for a brief moment that this is just a show).  By all appearances, “The Hunter” caught himself a real cougar.

As we all know, office romances — especially between a supervisor and a subordinate — are very problematic and plant the seeds for sexual harassment claims when things sour, which they almost always do.  The employees generally claim that they felt compelled to continue in the relationship with the supervisor — or it would be their job on the line.  Here, Dunder Mifflin is lucky to have Hunter’s ode to Jan, which will be very useful in refuting any claim that Jan’s advances were unwanted — please!  But most of us can’t count on (nor do we want to listen to) that type of evidence.  Instead, we have to turn to policies and enforcement.  Crafting a thoughtful policy on employee dating should help us sleep a little sounder at night.  But the key to any policy is the proper enforcement behind it.  We definitely don’t want to create a policy that we’re not going to enforce or just enforce parts of; that just makes the policy empty and could create other disparate-impact claims.

read more…

The Deposition

November 16, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $200,000 (including Dunder Mifflin’s attorneys fees and deposition costs)

Well, it finally happened. An employee has sued Dunder Mifflin for wrongful termination. I’m not usually one to say “I told you so” but, somehow, I just can’t stop myself this morning.

While it is probably not illegal to fire someone for getting a boob job, it is certainly illegal to fire someone based on gender stereotypes or characteristics. Unfortunately for Dunder Mifflin, it seems like this may be where Jan is headed. And that just can’t be welcome news for David Wallace and the gang.

read more…

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)

read more…

Cocktails Revisited

August 10, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $75,000 (I’m sticking with my earlier assessment)

A number of people have asked me whether Jan could really be fired for dating Michael. My answer? Probably. Well, at least in most states. Employers can, and often do, implement policies prohibiting their employees from engaging in romantic relationships with co-workers and, certainly, with subordinates. And Courts typically uphold those policies. Or at least they used to. In February, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down a company’s policy prohibiting any fraternization, dating or becoming “overly friendly” with co-workers on the theory that the policy could be interpreted by employees as prohibiting employees from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, which violates the National Labor Relations Act.

A policy prohibiting any employees from being “overly friendly” with one another — can you imagine what would happen if Dunder Mifflin enforced such a policy? My guess is that Stanley would be the only employee left in Scranton.

Ben Franklin

July 20, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $800,000+

If an executive learns that a regional manager has sponsored a bachelor party in the warehouse, hired a stripper, offered to “deflower” the bride, taken an employee to a sex store, received a lap dance, and allowed a pervert dressed up like Benjamin Franklin to make a lewd statement to the receptionist, she should fire him. As soon as possible. Anything else and the company is looking at significant liability. Of course, at Dunder Mifflin, Jan is likely caught in a Catch-22. As soon as she fires Michael, she could be facing a charge for her own conduct in having an affair with her subordinate. Ah, what a tangled web we weave….

As this week’s episode colorfully illustrates, it is not enough to have an anti-harassment policy. Dunder Mifflin has one (as Michael mentioned- twice) and look what happened. Rather, employers must demonstrate that they take the policy seriously and that they are committed to stopping sexual harassment in the workplace. If they can’t, a court is likely to find the policy ineffective. And when it does, the company can say goodbye to its affirmative defense and say hello to punitive damages.

 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »