Dunder Mifflin Infinity

October 05, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $600,000 (eventually)

One day soon, when all is said and done, Ryan’s comments are going to cost Dunder Mifflin about $600,000. Maybe more. Managers really should know better than to tell employees that the company is launching a new technology initiative for a “younger” and “more agile” company. They really should know better than to say it twice. Add to that Dunder Mifflin’s history of attempting to “squeeze” out older branch managers with a mandatory retirement age and the routine mocking of the human resources department, and you’re looking at an age discrimination case that has very little hope of getting thrown out before trial (and a half-decent chance of losing once you get there). Just not yet. After all, Dunder Mifflin didn’t take any adverse actions against anyone this week. But give it time, I’m sure they will give someone every reason to challenge them.

I’m not sure who the $600,000 will go to yet, but if I had to guess the lucky recipient, then my money would be on Creed. Especially if Dunder Mifflin finally learned about the “Debbie Brown” cover-up (where Creed attempted to hide his failure to stop the distribution of paper containing watermarks with cartoon ducks engaged in lewd conduct by blaming it on an innocent employee) and fired him. We all know that Creed will do anything for a few extra bucks. This may just be his lucky day.

Categories: Ryan Howard

Business School Revisited

August 03, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: 33 million????

Typically, the workplace is not an appropriate location to practice “creative discipline.” Such “creativity” can be, and often is, misconstrued. Take, for example, Ryan. Michael was retaliating against him for making disparaging remarks about the company. Probably not illegal but easily could have been had Ryan engaged in an activity protected by law — such as complaining that Dunder Mifflin engaged in illegal practices. Then, the fact that Michael moved Ryan’s office to an annex where Michael knew it would upset Ryan and (obviously) disrupt his work could very well be actionable.

Dunder Mifflin would not be the only company that was being sued over a change in an employee’s office location. On May 26, 2007, the New York Daily News reported that a Connecticut secretary sued her former employer for $33 million because it moved her — along with her entire department — to another part of the office and declined her request for a desk closer to the window. According to the article, the secretary suffers from “seasonal affective disorder.” As it was, the new desk was just three feet away from the window. I guess that just wasn’t close enough for her.

Business School

February 15, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 4 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $30,000 (But it could have been much higher)

“Business is always personal” is probably not the best motto for a manager. It could lead them to act impulsively. Like, say, moving an employee’s desk from the front of the office to an “annex” inhabited by the employee’s chatty, fashion-crazed, quasi (ex?) girlfriend as a punishment for suggesting that the company could someday go out of business. But … would it be illegal? Maybe. Or at least it would be if Ryan’s speech could be considered a protected activity under Sarbanes-Oxley, the anti-discrimination laws, or some type of state whistleblower statute. Because Ryan’s speech (well, the part of it we could hear) probably did not implicate any of these statutes, Dunder Mifflin will likely dodge a bullet.

On the other hand, if Ryan had complained of discrimination and Michael had reacted the same way, then the Company would be looking at significant exposure. In a discrimination case, a manager’s actions do not necessarily have to be related to the workplace to land a company in hot water. Rather, an employer’s action need only be “materially adverse” to start the ball rolling. Telling an employee’s business school classmates that he has never made a sale and publicly berating him could do it. And I’m pretty sure that most guys would find being saddled with Kelly to meet this standard!

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Categories: Ryan Howard / Whistleblowing

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