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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Lovers, Fighters, and Nappers — Oh, My!

May 14, 2010 - by: Jaclyn West 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Up to $50,000 — or maybe more — to settle Toby’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress; $3,000 to train the employees again on what is and what is not appropriate office behavior (especially with regard to office romance); more fodder for Erin’s sexual harassment case; and some individual legal fees for Dwight and Angela.

Whew! The employees over at Dunder Mifflin/Sabre have been busy. So busy, in fact, that it’s hard to name anyone who was actually on good behavior last night. (Except for maybe Andy. He was certainly inserting himself inappropriately into Michael’s personal life, but his heart was in the right place. In most workplaces, though, it’s generally not a good idea to force your boss to confront his married girlfriend’s spouse. Even if you introduce your boss as “my associate, Sheldon.”)

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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.

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Who Wanted to Be a Millionaire?

December 03, 2009 - by: Doug Hall 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: From Dunder Mifflin’s corporate perspective, likely $0, though it might find itself having to defend claims that it should be liable for Michael’s tuition promise. Michael on the other hand . . . but you can’t get blood from a turnip, right?

Just how long has Michael Scott been wreaking havoc on the greater Scranton area? From this episode of The Office, Scott’s Tots, we learn that he’s been at it for at least 10 years, when he promised a group of third graders — Scott’s Tots — that he would pay their college tuition should they graduate from high school. Oh those heady days of 1999, when Michael thought he’d be a millionaire by age 30, 40 at the latest. Well, it’s 2009 now and the chickens have come home to roost. In a series of cringe-inducing scenes, Michael tries to avoid facing the music at all, then reluctantly comes clean, but only after letting the kids sing his praises.

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Taking a Twirl on the Big Stage

November 20, 2009 - by: Matt Rita 6 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0. For the second week running, our favorite paper company largely avoided any obvious liability on the employment law front. In fact, Dunder Mifflin may have a (nominal) claim of its own against Michael Scott and his road-tripping entourage, based on their unauthorized limousine frolic.

If this were a securities or bankruptcy law post, last night’s episode of The Office would provide ample material for a discussion of a corporation’s duties to its shareholders and creditors in the midst of creeping insolvency. But we’ll leave those topics to other bloggers. Given our focus, we’ll instead look at the experiences of three characters — Michael and Oscar attending the DMI shareholder meeting in New York City, and Jim minding the shop back in Scranton — to identify some common employee relations issues that have the potential to become employment law issues.

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Double Trouble

November 06, 2009 - by: Jaclyn West 5 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: up to $5,000-7,500 to settle Erin’s sexual harassment claim; $2,000 for sexual harassment training (again); up to $10,000 to settle with Michael for failing to protect him from Pam’s slap … and Pam might be spending some of her own money on defending against Michael’s battery claim.

This week on “The Office,” we saw our favorite Scranton residents engaged in their usual bad behavior. Dwight seemed to actually be on fairly good behavior, but of course we soon learned that he was only nice to his coworkers so that they would “owe him,” and he could later cash in the favor to have Jim fired. Did anyone not see that coming? Still, there’s no law against bringing bagels to work! No, what concerned me about the episode were the interactions between Ryan and Erin, and between Pam and Michael.

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Might Doesn’t Make Right, Dwight

October 01, 2009 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

This week’s episode — “The Promotion” — had nothing to do with advancement in the workplace. In fact, the only thing it promoted was how to get fired. When the episode ended, I identified five Scranton employees whom David Wallace should discharge if he wants to minimize potential liability:

Dwight. He opened the episode fantasizing about placing Jim in a “triangle choke hold.” Later on he disrupted the workplace with an impassioned attempt to enlist his coworkers to “drag [Jim] out of his office.” The Office is funny, but workplace violence … not so much. Dwight’s threats were even more egregious because they were unprovoked, and Dwight repeatedly targeted a single employee. Prudent employers take a zero-tolerance approach to workplace violence. An employer that retains an employee it knows has threatened coworkers is begging for costly litigation and bad press. Just about every company not named Dunder Mifflin would have let Dwight go that day.

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First Impressions

June 19, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  $0
Potential Savings:  $10,000 per retained employee

Last night’s rerun didn’t offer much new, so we’ll fulfill our promise to revisit the second “Michael Scott Paper Company” episode.

Michael crafted a deal to house his new company’s headquarters in a Dunder Mifflin closet. The dream team’s starry-eyed optimism soon wore off after Michael, Pam, and Ryan moved into their new digs. The makeshift office was cramped and uncomfortable, affording no one the illusion of a personal workspace. In fact, between the shared laptop, Ryan’s loud phone calls, and the sound of rushing water every time a toilet flushed, morale dipped dangerously low. In short order, Pam was disillusioned and more than ready to abandon her new position in the hopes of returning to Dunder Mifflin.

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All’s Not Fair in Love and War

April 17, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $250,000

Things escalated quickly during the “Heavy Competition” episode of The Office. Michael Scott ratcheted up his sales efforts by trying to get Dwight Schrute to give him some of Dunder Mifflin’s customers. But when new Dunder Mifflin boss Charles Minor gained Dwight’s respect (with a well-appreciated handshake –- “it’s firm!”), the deal was off, and the gloves came off, too.  Who could be liable to whom, and for how much?

First, Dunder Mifflin could do very well in a suit against Michael and his company. Michael tried to steal Dunder Mifflin’s customers, and might have done so unlawfully. Like we talked about a couple of weeks ago, although individuals can compete with their former employers, there are some restrictions. One such restriction is that you can’t conspire with a current employee to steal trade secrets. The only question is the amount of damages –- that’s difficult to determine because we don’t know how successful Michael has been. Let’s call it $50,000 for now.

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The Right Interview Questions

August 21, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 0 COMMENTS

We’re in the middle of election season and the race for the White House. When you’re deciding between McCain and Obama, perhaps it would help if you treated the election like what it really is: a job interview.

Sometimes the questions the candidates are asked are ridiculous (boxers or briefs), and sometimes the answers the candidates give are ridiculous (they misunderestimated me!). But are these examples that different from actual experiences we’ve all had in interviews, or from questions that Dwight asked Andy during his interview for the Assistant to the Regional Manager job when they thought Michael Scott was leaving? (What is the best color? How do you make a table? What is the capital of Maine?) Well, maybe.

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