No nonsense

Litigation Value:  Office romance with the new Regional Manager (and A.A.R.M.) = fodder for a potential sexual harassment claim; eliminating nonsense from the workplace = every human resources manager’s dream; Dwight giving up a milk maid to marry his long-time love and father his beet-loving offspring = priceless.

As John Krasinski explained in a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, Thursday’s episode marked the first half of a two-part series finale for The Office. As a side note, I definitely recommend you check out the interview on www.nbc.com.  The lip-syncing competition, which featured a bearded Krasinski passionately singing “I’ll Make Love to You” to Fallon, was comic gold.

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Stanley Knievel

April 11, 2013 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation value:  Stanley can sue Dwight blind for his bull dart assault.

This is an employment law blog.  So when tonight’s episode opened, and I saw that Dwight had shut down the building’s elevator for repair, leaving the stairwell as the only option to reach Dunder Mifflin’s offices, I thought it might be interesting to explore the ADA’s regulations on elevators in public buildings.  Or maybe Stanley’s adamant refusal to attend the school district sales pitch was an opportunity to discuss the definition of insubordination. Such interesting choices.

And then Dwight shot Stanley with a triple dose of bull tranquilizers, encased him in bubble wrap, and slid him down the stairs headfirst.

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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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A “Get-Together”

January 20, 2012 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

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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There Was Talk of Oatmeal

December 09, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

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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He Creeps Me Out, But He Might Be a Genius

Litigation Value: likely to skyrocket with Robert California’s new sex-fueled approach to paper sales.

The word around The Office is that James Spader will be returning next season as Robert California, a character Paul Lieberstein (a.k.a. Toby) has described as “this uber-salesman that has a power to convince and manipulate like a high-class weirdo Jedi warrior.”  It appears he’ll be hired as the new manager only to take over the Company and become its new CEO in the blink of an eye. As a fan of Spader and his quirky role on Boston Legal, this blogger could not be more excited about this casting development.

When we last saw Robert on the season finale, he had some unusual advice for the sales team. “There is no such thing as a ‘product.’ There is only sex. Everything is sex. You understand what I’m telling you is a universal truth.” As my fellow blogger, Matt Rita, pointed out in his recent post, this certainly does not bode well for the Company’s litigation costs. I am sure Robert will give us plenty of material for this blog. To return the favor, here is my advice (or universal truths) to Robert on dealing with the gang at Dunder Mifflin Sabre.

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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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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

July 02, 2010 - by: Matt Rita 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $0. Now that we’re into the summer season of recycled shows, we’ll assume that all stale claims are time-barred.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Or so we thought. With a doubleheader of The Office repeats on last night’s schedule, this blogger was getting ready to post a rehash of two episodes from last season: The Banker and Sabre. (Before I forget, allow me to give obligatory yet sincere props to two of my colleagues, Brian Kurtz in Chicago and Chris Butler in Atlanta, for their prior write-ups on those shows.)

But news recently reached me, out here west of the Mississippi, that Steve Carell may be ending his run as our favorite show’s most (in)famous character, Michael Scott. That, in turn, has suggested that I write on a recurring and unavoidable topic: change.

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Office Scuttlebutt Redux

June 24, 2010 - by: Chris Butler 2 COMMENTS

Additional Litigation Value:  $150,000 ($50,000 each for Stanley and Andy; $25,000 each for Kelly and Erin)

Tonight’s episode – Gossip – is a repeat from last season.  My law partner, Matt Rita, thoroughly covered Michael Scott’s shenanigans in the first run, astutely pointing out how Michael’s self-generated rumor mill could give rise to an invasion of privacy claim.  Let’s pile on another potential tort claim -– defamation.

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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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