Drum Roll, Please

September 15, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

To prepare us for next week’s season premiere of The Office, NBC concludes the summer rerun schedule with a replay of last season’s finale. The intrigue and chicanery surrounding the search committee’s efforts have been well documented in prior posts dating back to the spring. And, my fellow bloggers and I have thoroughly vetted both the internal candidates to succeed Michael Scott (including Kelly Kapoor, Dwight Schrute, Darryl Philbin and Andy Bernard) and the outsiders who were interviewed (such as David Brent, Fred Henry and Robert California). Now, with changes to the show’s cast well known, it’s all over but the shouting. (Somebody give me a “BOBODDY!”)

The ascendancy of a new regional manager in Scranton will almost certainly change the workplace “vibe” at Dunder Mifflin. Compared to the ostentatious style of Steve Carell‘s beloved character, James Spader‘s alter ego will likely seem brusque. But, so long as Robert California treats everyone with the same degree of condescension, the risk of employment litigation should be no greater than it was before. Then again, if Pennsylvania were to become one of the growing number of states to propose laws against workplace bullying, we could soon see the case of Kevin Malone, et al. v. Sabre filed in the Common Pleas Court. We’ll have to watch the upcoming episodes before trying to quantify that potential liability.

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A Man of Great Confidence

June 24, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 2 COMMENTS

With summer officially upon us, we resume the daunting task of helping the search committee sift through the would-be successors to Michael Scott. Turning our focus to outside candidates, this post evaluates a man whose ego is as big as the state for which he is named: Robert California.

Delivering a Walken-esque performance, James Spader‘s character dominates the interview process. When it appears that his experience selling deep-sea drilling and other refinery equipment has little to do with Dunder Mifflin’s paper business, he deftly shifts the discussion to “universal truths,” literally defining away the very existence of products. By interview’s end, Mr. California has the committee members answering his (largely rhetorical) questions, lending credence to Gabe’s assessment that he may be overqualified.

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2010 Dundies

August 27, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: A little recognition goes a long way, especially if there’s an unlimited bar tab…

As the weeks roll by, we find ourselves closer and closer to the season premiere and Michael Stott’s last year at the office. But right now, we’re still in the midst of the long, hot summer, and last night was another rerun. Last night we re-watched “St. Patrick’s Day,” which we covered earlier this year. It got me thinking about job satisfaction. In addition to work-life balance, which we discussed on first run, what else do employees need to feel happy in their jobs? Recognition! Now that’s something Michael does very well, especially when the annual Dundie Awards roll around. Here are my picks for 2010:

The Brangelina Award goes to the hottest couple in the office!  Their roller coaster romance gives us plenty to talk about at the water cooler when we should be selling paper. Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Howard and Kelly Kapoor!

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Be Careful What You Wish For

April 23, 2010 - by: Matt Scott 3 COMMENTS

“This Is Why You Don’t Date Co-Workers” — that’s what tonight’s episode of The Office should have been called. In an amazing twist of fate, this may be the only episode of The Office in which Michael Scott is (a) the voice of reason and understanding and (b) does virtually NOTHING offensive. Instead, this episode was all about the perils of intra-office dating.

Andy Bernard, the consummate goofball, almost literally has to twist Michael’s arm to get him to take Andy’s office paramour, Erin, to lunch for Secretary’s Day so Andy can show Erin how much he cares for and appreciates her (not sure why he thinks lunch with Michael shows this, but he does). But Erin’s so completely off-the-wall and mundane lunch ramblings left even Michael struggling to make conversation with her. And in doing so, Michael stumbles into telling Erin about Andy’s former engagement to Angela, which apparently Andy had not gotten around to mentioning to Erin. And for Andy, things went downhill from there.

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A Tale of Two Repeats

April 02, 2010 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Very Little.  Destination Wedding = $25,000; Niagara Falls Ceremony after Escaping Wedding = $100; Diapering Angela’s Cat = Priceless.

Given that last night consisted of two repeats, two of my colleagues have already done a wonderful job of covering issues raised by the Dunder Mifflin gang’s antics last night. Although last night’s episodes did not give rise to much in the way of litigation value, here’s a rundown of my top 10 things not to do at the office (or anywhere else, for that matter).

  1. Offer to stick spicy food (or anything else) into a coworker’s rectum.
  2. Discuss a coworker’s nipples. On the other hand, I definitely agree with Michael that no coworkers should be stimulating Pam’s nipples at Dunder Mifflin.
  3. Offer to bring a nippleless shirt to the office. Why Meredith has a nippleless anything in the car is a mystery to me. Of course, it may be the newest craze from the JWow collection.
  4. Pretend to shoot coworkers, even with your finger. This is particularly true if you intend to simulate gruesome brain splatter.
  5. Openly discuss the fact that Stanley has two lovers and you don’t have any.
  6. Decide to sleep nude in two coworkers’ bed, even if you are secretly eradicating mold and remodeling their kitchen for free.
  7. Announce that a coworker must have needed an “afternoon delight” with his wife.
  8. Discuss the relative hotness of a coworker as she stands uncomfortably next to you.
  9. Spread a rumor that a coworker has an elephant heart.
  10. Negotiate a parenting contract with a former office flame, even if your biological clock is ticking so loudly you awaken to find yourself cradling a gourd on your beet farm.

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Baby, Baby, Please

March 05, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much.

With collective attentions devoted almost entirely to the miracle of childbirth, the Scranton branch didn’t leave us much to work with tonight. Whereas Dwight Schrute’s senseless destruction of Jim and Pam Halpert’s kitchen cabinetry exposes him to a cornucopia of civil and criminal liabilities in his own right, it’s unlikely that his misconduct would be attributable to Dunder Mifflin.

Indeed, Dunder Mifflin got off light this week. Were it not for the fact that Michael Scott’s systematically inappropriate behavior has become the norm -– considerably lowering the bar and desensitizing the work environment -– his rather unhealthy interest in Pam’s pregnancy might otherwise expose Dunder Mifflin and himself to a rare, but potentially fatal, harassment-based-on-pregnancy claim. Of course, in order to prove pregnancy harassment, Pam would have to show that she was both subjectively and objectively offended by Michael’s repeated references to, and his actions based on, her pregnancy; and that they were pervasive enough to interfere with her ability to perform her job or to otherwise create a hostile work environment. Inasmuch as Michael means well, and Pam doesn’t appear to be overly offended by his innocuous behavior, it’s doubtful this variation of a sex/pregnancy discrimination theory would hold up in court.

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Growing Up Grotti

October 16, 2009 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Oscar’s damages–climbing; diversity and harassment training from a trained professional–$2,000; backing off the mafia–priceless.

It’s a new episode of The Office that has Michael, Dwight, and Andy convinced that an insurance salesman is part of the mafia based on “his southern Italian heritage.”  While it was entertaining for viewers to watch the trio (and Pat the Mechanic) battle a perceived low-level mafia shakedown, it is certainly not office-appropriate conduct.  Looks like our friends at Dunder Mifflin need a refresher on national origin discrimination, and I am sure Oscar would agree.  National origin is not limited to the country where a person was born, but it also includes the country from which a person’s ancestors came.  In addition, national origin discrimination can include discrimination because the individual possesses the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.  An employee’s objective appearance can form the basis for an unlawful discrimination claim.  For example, the Third Circuit found that an employee was discriminated against as Hispanic even though the employee regarded himself as a Sephardic Jew.

Although Mr. Grotti does not have a national origin discrimination claim (given that he is not a Dunder Mifflin employee), Dunder Mifflin should strongly consider diversity and harassment training, because this is not the first time Michael has exhibited a lack of sensitivity when it comes to an individual’s national origin.  For example, I am sure most of us remember Michael asking Oscar if there is a “less offensive” term for “Mexican” or when Michael told everyone that Oscar was the voice of the Taco Bell dog.

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Getting a Little (Maid of the) Misty

October 08, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0 for Dunder-Mifflin (consider the bullets dodged for now), but I’d love to be the plaintiffs’ lawyer representing those poor souls who got ice from the machine in which Kevin stuck his formerly Kleenex-boxed feet

I don’t normally cry at weddings, but I could see making an exception for the long-anticipated nuptials of “The Office” sweethearts Pam and Jim. Not because these characters found true love — they’re fictional after all. No, my tears were for the fact that the wedding takes the entire Office out of the office and on the road to Niagara Falls! (“Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch…”  - it’s an old Three Stooges routine, ask your parents.) How is any self-respecting employment lawyer — or me for that matter — supposed to write an employment law blog about an episode that doesn’t involve work? Well, I shouldn’t have worried, Michael Scott et al. never fail to deliver!

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Quitting Time

March 20, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $60,000

Michael, Michael, Michael. What went wrong? What happened to turn you into this new, bitter man? And why couldn’t you have quit before you cost the company thousands more in potential judgments?

Before we get to Michael’s actionable conduct, let’s first touch on the new guy, Charles Minor. Fortunately, it is almost impossible for a manager to file a claim for sexual harassment, because the new Dunder Mifflin vice president was the target of some pretty disturbing (read: awesome) and unwanted flirtation. Kelly made no bones about her quest to get the “black George Clooney” to buy her a prime rib; and Angela wasn’t much better, stealing Charles’ scarf and being overly creepy and affectionate toward him. Even though Charles may not have a claim against the company, though, others might. The risk in this situation is that Kelly’s and Angela’s shenanigans could lead to an unintended victim claiming to be offended by their actions.

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Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

February 13, 2009 - by: Dominic Verstegen 3 COMMENTS

Employment law attorney Dominic Verstegen discusses Dunder Mifflin’s liability for its employees’ actions when Michael, Dwight, Kevin, and Oscar all cross the line and invade the privacy of their coworkers on the “Lecture Circuit, Part II” episode of The Office.

Litigation Value: $45,000

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