Andy Goes Soft

April 19, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $200,000 for Andy’s severe emotional distress. Possible future litigation for his termination.

Not subtle. Not subtle at all. Nellie has already usurped Andy’s manager status. Then she hauls Andy and his coworkers into a conference room and writes “IMPOTENCE” in bright red letters on the flip chart. Robert California sits there, amused by the whole spectacle.

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has four elements: (1) extreme and outrageous conduct (2) inflicted intentionally or recklessly (3) that caused emotional distress, and (4) the distress was severe. Applying these factors to this episode, Andy has a viable action against Dunder Mifflin.

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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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That’s What Friends Are For

March 10, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

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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Pyramid

March 01, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 1 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $150,000. This isn’t Hooters, Dwight. Requiring Kathy to flirt with customers is sexual harassment. Additional damages if Todd Packer plays his sexual predator role as well as we suspect he can.

“Bloggers are gross. Bloggers are obese. Bloggers have halitosis.”

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Tighten Your Saddles

February 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Cathy showing Jim the “Talla-Nasty” = yet more fodder for Jim’s sexual harassment lawsuit; five dots = a murky texting area and potential lawsuit for Darryl; and watching Dwight work himself into a human bedbug trap = priceless.

This After Hours episode has the gang engaging in conduct that should make any human resources professional cringe. Tighten your saddles, because it is bound to be a bumpy ride. While the Scranton branch is working late, the Florida team is hitting the hotel bar scene for some debauchery. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the fact that the conduct occurs outside the workplace does not necessarily free an employer from liability, particularly when a supervisor instructs her employees that bar attendance is “compulsory.” 

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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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Perfectenschlag

February 10, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Nothing too outrageous last night, but are we seeing the beginnings of a couple of sexual harassment claims for Jim and Val?

Another week has gone by, and our favorite paper and printer sales team has heroically managed to continue to avoid discussing the bizarre behavior of their CEO at his party a few weeks ago. (What happens at Robert California’s, stays at Robert California’s, I guess.) But we’re certain to see more R.C. shenanigans in the coming weeks, because the head office is planning to open storefronts and Andy has tasked Dwight with coming up with a crack sales team to concoct a concept and open the stores. Dwight picked a group that, arguably, contains the five most dedicated and talented workers in the office — and Andy immediately rejected Dwight’s team because he couldn’t run his operation for three weeks without those folks. Andy told Dwight he could take a group of employees he deemed “less essential” — including Kevin and Kelly.

Naturally, Dwight was upset that Andy rejected his choice team and saddled him with, in Dwight’s opinion, a group of useless people. But since Andy’s the boss, Dwight couldn’t override him. So Dwight did what he does best — undermined Andy’s authority. Dwight announced the team in a way that he knew would upset the group, then unleashed the angry employees on Andy. Andy was forced to retreat from his previously chosen team, and he and Dwight picked the group together — Stanley, Jim, Erin, Ryan and Kathy. (Andy, this isn’t legal advice, but just a tip — Dwight wants your job and he’d love to undermine you all the way out the door. If you continue putting him into positions where he can assert his “authority” over his co-workers, he’s going to capitalize on those opportunities and you’ll come off looking like you can’t control him. Dwight has always been a problem employee and probably always will be, barring some major personality change. It’s fine to try to engage an employee like that — in fact, it’s a good idea. At the end of the day, though, everyone needs to be clear about the fact that you are the boss, not Dwight.)

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Caught Red-Handed and Breastfed

February 04, 2012 - by: Joshua Drexler 2 COMMENTS

Last night’s episode, Jury Duty, involved scandalous improprieties, shrewd cover-ups, relentless investigations, and dramatic public confessions. Agatha Christie would have been proud, although Scranton’s twist on these themes might have left her a little confused.

It took Dwight only a few minutes to dismantle Jim’s lie about having been on jury duty for a full week. After uncovering the truth, Dwight celebrated the demise of his nemesis, believing that Andy had no other recourse other than to fire Jim. When Andy gave Jim a mere slap on the wrist (well, face actually), Dwight was beside himself in anger. While no liability should result from any single act from this episode, Andy’s lenient treatment of Jim definitely created a ripe environment for someone else to cry “no fair” in the future. In legal terms, they would allege “disparate treatment.” The cardinal rule for disciplining employees is to enforce your policies consistently. If Andy decides to discipline an employee for dishonesty in the future, that employee could argue that Andy only did so because of his/her race, sex, religion, etc., and point to Andy’s disparate treatment of Jim as proof. The temptation to have favorites is normal, but employers need to know that allowing favoritism to influence the enforcement of policies can be very risky.

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Categories: Michael Scott

Some Friendly Advice

January 27, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Nada, Zero, Zilch. Interview Advice: Priceless.

No “Office” last night, fellow Scrantonites! (Scrantonians?) I didn’t know what to do with myself all evening. And since we don’t have a new episode – or even a rerun – to discuss, I did what I do best and made a list.

Top 10 Things NOT To Say When Interviewing For A Job At Dunder Mifflin Paper Company:

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