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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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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The Return of the Nard Dog

February 07, 2013 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

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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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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Three Dwight Circus

September 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: Andy’s vocal hatred for Nelly = fodder for her brewing constructive discharge and breach of contract case; New versus Old Dwight dynamic = possible future age discrimination issues; watching Old Dwight’s jealous alter ego attempt a terrifying stunt in the parking lot to put New Dwight in his place = priceless.

The Office kicked off its final season with quite a bang. With a New Dwight (“Dwight Jr.”) and a New Jim (“Plop”), Oscar’s secret affair with The Senator, growing tensions between Jim and Pam over career issues, and the big reveal about the paternity of Angela’s baby, this season should be an interesting one. Andy is back and relishing his role as Regional Manager except for one small problem–Nellie is still lurking around. Hopefully Outward Bound has not resurrected angry wall-punching Andy.   

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Dunder Mifflin, We Hardly Knew Ye

August 30, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

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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Office Olympics

August 02, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 0 COMMENTS
Adam Klarfeld

With the Olympics in full swing this summer, reruns of The Office have been replaced with reruns of the Olympics (OK, tape-delayed events, but you get the idea). I can only assume this means that every workplace in the entire world is now hosting its very own office-themed Olympics with events ranging from office-chair races to Flonkerton. (In Season 2, Episode 3, we learned that Flonkerton is (obviously) the Icelandic term for “Box of Paper Snowshoe Racing,” the national sport of “Icelandic paper companies.” The Scranton branch competed in Flonkerton as part of the first Dundler Mifflin Olympiad.)   

Naturally, and like most fun things at work, workplace-sponsored Olympics (and all extracurricular activities for that matter -– both on and off the premises) have associated legal risks. (Surprisingly, nobody from Dunder Mifflin seems to actually have been hurt in that episode.) If an employee is injured at your office’s Olympics, here are the general legal topics implicated:

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