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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That’s What Friends Are For

March 10, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

Litigation Value: Nothing much to speak of, although Dwight will hopefully value Jim a little bit higher now.

Well, Dwight has a lot to thank Jim for after this week. I’d like to think that he might improve his attitude and behavior toward Jim — and the rest of the office, for that matter — but I don’t see that happening. Still, after Jim saved Dwight’s job, one hopes Dwight will be grateful. Discovering that Robert California was planning to tank the retail store idea and make Dwight the scapegoat — it turns out Robert hated the idea, but couldn’t veto it outright because “the great Jo Bennet” wanted retail stores — Jim showed an admirable determination to save Dwight’s career, despite Dwight’s incessant needling and taunting about his “victory.”

Personally, I wouldn’t have blamed Jim if he walked away after the first attempt to reach Dwight. (Being called a six-foot Hobbit had to hurt.) After all, Dwight hasn’t made much of an effort to be a good co-worker over the years we’ve known him. Who among us would have been sorry to see him go, if we had to work with him? Still, some of my favorite “Office” moments are those when Dwight and Jim team up, or when we see flashes of possibility for a friendship to develop between them. It probably never will — there’s too much bad blood there — but Jim’s gesture last night certainly gave me a lot of respect for him. (And for Pam, too, for encouraging Jim to help Dwight out.)

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A “Get-Together”

January 20, 2012 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS
Matt Rita

Litigation Value:  Call it what you will — a get-together, party, or bacchanalia. By any name, tonight’s gathering at the soon-to-be-former home of Robert California could prove costly for both Dunder Mifflin Sabre and its chief executive.

Are you ready for some meatballs?”  At night’s end, The Office‘s figurative answer to that literal question by Stanley (a/k/a Dwight’s carnivorous co-conspirator) was definitely “No” — that is, if the exodus of swimmers from the indoor pool of their au naturel boss was any indication.

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A Flush and a Fluke

January 13, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value:  Dwight manhandling Gabe = a pricey negligent retention/supervision lawsuit; Andy trying to convince Oscar to cook the sales books = $700 for an expedited severance agreement and release in full for Andy; Kevin and the Einsteins claiming all the glory at trivia = one priceless fluke.

What happens when an office is $800 short of meeting its sales goal on the very last day of the quarter? For our Scranton friends, it means a road trip to a gay bar in Philadelphia for one epic night of trivia. Anxious to impress Robert California, Andy is desperate to hit his numbers at any price, including buying a carload of paper himself and even asking Oscar to fudge the sales numbers for him.

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Sabotage!

January 05, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: Nothing in this episode, but Dwight is perilously close to civil and criminal liability for his computer activities.

Jaclyn West wrote about this episode, Doomsday, two months ago when it originally aired. Her post discussed “motivation” and the inevitable sexual harassment of warehouse Val, either at the hands of Gabe or Darryl.

Dwight’s “Accountability Booster” raises a different employment law issue. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 prohibits, among other things, intentionally transmitting a code or program and causing damage to a computer system. Dwight’s doomsday program would have sent information to Robert California that was harmful to the Scranton employees. This likely does not violate the CFAA, but it reminds us that Dunder Mifflin needs an acceptable use policy to govern computer use by its employees.

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Stapler-Markers And Other Unusual Gift Ideas

December 23, 2011 - by: Joshua Drexler 0 COMMENTS
Joshua Drexler

Litigation Value: potentially millions when Dunder Mifflin/Saber tries to assert ownership rights over the Stapler-Marker or scented pink paper.

In an unusual deviation from its comic roots, last night’s episode of The Office, “Gettysburg,” tackled a difficult societal issue: the isolation and depression resulting from corporate America treating business like war….. Ok, that’s not true – just making sure you are paying attention. In reality “Gettysburg” was a re-run and typically hilarious. Jaclyn West initially provided great commentary.

One of my favorite moments from the episode involved the “Stapler-Marker.” The idea for this ingenious device bubbled up from the depths of Kevin’s unusual mind. Imagine it: no longer will you have to set down your marker before stapling the document that you are working on to another document. Instead, in one seamless movement, you will mark and then staple. Or you will staple then mark. As Kevin demonstrated, you might even be able to do both tasks at the same time, cutting out endless hours of wasted moments during the day.

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There Was Talk of Oatmeal

December 09, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS
Matt Rita

Litigation Value:  Surprisingly, despite the free-flowing shots and porcupine quills, the legal risks associated with the most recent Dunder Mifflin Sabre holiday party ultimately proved to be relatively low.  What “holiday” am I referring to?  Well, just ask Stanley.

If only more employees could be like Kevin — not wanting to put anyone out, while content to sate themselves with apple cinnamon and maple brown sugar (in one bowl, with whole milk).  But alas, at this time of year, many of us have watched co-workers (over)indulge other appetites.

In Pennsylvania, where our favorite paper company (occasionally) conducts business, Section 4-493 of the Liquor Code makes it unlawful to “permit any liquor or malt or brewed beverages to be . . . furnished or given, to any person visibly intoxicated.”  Long before Oscar relieved him behind the bar, Robert should have known that Erin and Meredith had reached (or exceeded) their respective limits.  But to the credit of both him and Andy, the company’s upper management — such as it is — saw to it that the most impaired team members made it home safely.  Call it a best practice.

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All’s Fair in Love and War

November 18, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

Litigation Value: Dunder Mifflin seems to have escaped the week without major liability. But that doesn’t mean that everyone behaved.

Another week, and Andy is still looking for ways to motivate and inspire his team. You’ve got to hand it to him: his analogy of business as war is, at least, more logical than most of the stuff Michael used to come up with. In an effort to bring the office together and get them motivated to attack their competition with renewed vigor, Andy organizes a trip to Gettysburg, complete with pink hats that read, suggestively, “DM does GB.” (This might have been more obviously obnoxious to someone who doesn’t work in D.C. I’m a bit desensitized to tour groups with bright matching apparel.) About half of the office decides to accompany Andy on his meticulously researched battlefield tour… but, as usual, there’s plenty of strife to go around.

Dwight accuses the Gettysburg staff of covering up information about the northernmost battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Schrute Farms. As he regales Erin with stories of his interpretation of Civil War history, Oscar admonishes Dwight not to fill “the poor girl’s head” with nonsense because “she doesn’t know any better.” Fortunately, Erin missed the snarky comment – but I didn’t. This isn’t the first time that Oscar has behaved in a condescending manner toward his coworkers. In an earlier episode, Jim mentioned that Oscar is known around the office as “Actually,” due to his penchant for correcting people. Oscar, a little friendly advice: sure, there’s no law against being a know-it-all, but you might want to consider playing a little bit nicer with your co-workers. For instance, what if you ever wanted to jump ship and find a new job? Plenty of employers will reject an otherwise qualified applicant because they don’t think that the applicant’s personality would mesh with the office, or they believe the applicant would be unpleasant to have around all day. And that’s not unlawful. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Oscar.

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That Fevered Night

October 28, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 2 COMMENTS
Matt Rita

Litigation Value: Not much on the employment law front. But, for many of our readers in Central Daylight Time (you know who you are), the goings-on during — and especially after — the most recent airing of The Office might have given rise to at least the kernel of an emotional distress claim.

Allow this week’s blogger to make an opening disclaimer:  In his lifetime, he has witnessed both the highs and the lows of World Series sixth games. But admittedly, those characterizations are very much a matter of perspective.

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Grease Lightning

October 07, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: allowing office staff to take over the warehouse and invent a new loading method = several bizarre Workers’ Compensation claims; Andy asking Oscar about his “wildest fantasy guy” while choosing new warehouse personnel = yet more fodder for Oscar’s potential claims; and controlling your own destiny = priceless.

This week’s episode started off with the warehouse crew winning the lottery and promptly resigning to pursue other dreams, including opening adult entertainment venues and creating “an energy drink for Asian homosexuals.”  Darryl is less than thrilled for his former warehouse co-workers, given that he used to participate in the lottery before his promotion and the crew won using the numbers from his birthday.  Darryl is too depressed to complete his task of hiring a replacement warehouse crew, which leads Andy to ask for volunteers to ship the day’s orders.  With Dwight, Jim, Erin, and Kevin covering the warehouse, what could go wrong?  One damaged wall, one mostly empty shipping truck, one lost customer, several injuries, and numerous greasy paper boxes later, Darryl and Andy both learn to have a greater appreciation for experienced warehouse crews.

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