Office Scuttlebutt

September 18, 2009 - by: Matt Rita 2 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $100,000

A new season of The Office is upon us!  Although Michael Scott is hardly a man for all seasons (and unlikely to be confused with Thomas More, or any other saint), in last night’s premiere he provided us with yet another object lesson on employment law.  This time the principle involved was employee privacy, or rather the lack thereof. In Michael’s zeal to shed his “third wheel” status, he set out to spread gossip about virtually everyone at Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch — other than himself, of course.  His rumors had nothing to do with company matters and everything to do with the personal lives of his staff members. For example, Michael would find it difficult to explain how the paper business has anything to do with Toby’s alleged virginity, Kelly’s supposed eating disorder, Creed’s asthmatic scuba diving, or the imaginary person inside of Kevin “working [him] with controls.”

The main focus of the rampant “scuttlebutt” was Stanley’s extra-marital relationship with a woman who had been his rehab nurse. Although an employee’s off-duty sexual conduct is a private matter, Michael saw fit to make himself “an equal part of it” — much as he did with Pam’s not-so-secret pregnancy. By disseminating such information to co-workers, Michael may have committed the tort of invasion of privacy.

read more…

A Comeback Story

February 02, 2009 - by: Troy Foster 3 COMMENTS

Employment law attorney Troy Foster examines the “Stress Relief” episode of The Office, which aired after the Super Bowl. He finds that Dundler Mifflin could be liable to Stanley for the stress Michael and Dwight cause him, to Meredith for Michael’s boorish jokes, and to Oscar for Michael’s weekly homophobic and racist comments

Litigation Value: $615,000 Total

read more…

Baby in the Office: A Slippery Situation

October 17, 2008 - by: Kylie Crawford 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Currently, $0

My stomach still hurts from laughing. This week on The Office, Michael Scott prepared for the birth of his make-believe baby by having Dwight Schrute, pant-less and on Michael’s desk, give birth to a buttered-up watermelon, all the while screaming about secretly marking the baby so no one could steal it.  Michael then ate his buttered watermelon baby.

Oddly enough, this offensive (read: incredibly funny) scenario is not the “pregnancy problem” in this episode. Michael did not discriminate against anyone based on pregnancy and no one suffered any sort of adverse employment action. Michael appeared to be truly excited that Jan was pregnant (or so he thought). This doesn’t mean that this type of behavior should be condoned. A story of grown men running around the office screaming, “My cervix is ripening!” and pretending that their water has broken would look really bad in front of a jury should some sort of pregnancy or sex discrimination claim arise.  But Holly should be far more concerned about Stanley than Michael in this episode.

read more…

Palin and the Commish

September 12, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 4 COMMENTS

It’s hard to escape all of the political news right now. If you keep an eye out, you can take something away from all the talking heads that you can use at work.

Take some of the stories about vice presidential candidate, Governor Sarah Palin. The one that grabbed headlines recently was the story that Palin told the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner to fire Palin’s brother-in-law. She wanted him canned, the story goes, because Palin heard her sister arguing with him, and may have heard that he wanted to harm Palin’s dad. The Commissioner declined to fire the brother-in-law, so Palin got rid of the Commissioner. Palin denies firing the Commish for this, or that he was ever pressured to fire her brother-in-law, but the matter is currently under investigation.

What can we take from this? Well, how about perception is everything. Think of The Office “Did I Stutter” episode in which Michael tried to fire Stanley. Not only did Michael make his usual inappropriate racial comments (calling Stanley a beautiful, sassy, powerful black man, for instance), but he created such a scene that Kevin was calling it the clash of the titans. Not ideal. And not so different from the Sarah Palin brother-in-law issue.

read more…

The Deposition: Michael’s Secrets Revealed!

June 19, 2008 - by: Troy Foster 1 COMMENTS

In “The Deposition” episode of “The Office,” Michael Scott tries to testify against his employer, Dundler Mifflin, after his girlfriend Jan Levinson sues the company for wrongful termination.  While Michael is being deposed, his e-mail, personal diary, and performance reviews are  used. Employment law attorney Troy Foster reminds us that “that nothing at work should ever be considered completely private.”

I could write about Michael’s deposition all year long.  But for this post, I’ll focus on Michael’s rights.  Yes, I said Michael’s rights to privacy.  Not only did some e-mail get used in the deposition but also his performance review and even his diary were used.

read more…

Did I Stutter?

May 02, 2008 - by: Julie Elgar 10 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $450,000 (if
Stanley ever quits or is fired)
It is with great sadness that I announce that I am leaving “That’s What She Said.” I have taken a new job and am leaving the private practice of law. But don’t despair. Our beloved blog will continue. I have passed the torch to my colleague Troy Foster, who is not only one of the funniest people I know but who is also a huge fan of the show.

At least the writers made my last post an easy one: tonight’s episode was full of Dunder Mifflin management missteps. Had Stanley really been fired (or if he had just quit in disgust after the “faux firing”), he would have found it substantially easier to make those alimony payments to the former Mrs. Stanley Hudson (not to mention his future ex-wives). His claims for race discrimination, age discrimination, wrongful termination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress would have been pretty solid. You just don’t get to “faux fire” the only over-40 black employee after asking him for suggestions on how to “pep up” and “energize” the workplace by recording an “urban” message in a staff meeting. Plus, juries are rarely impressed by managers who publicly humiliate their employees. That being said, Michael’s blunders don’t excuse Stanley’s conduct. As much as we all have wanted to blow up at our boss during some point in our careers, the cold hard truth is that you just don’t get to do so without adverse consequences.

read more…

Branch Wars

November 02, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $400,000 (that classified ad just isn’t going to look good to a jury)

While I didn’t expect it to come from the Utica branch, it looks like the “the war for talent” that so many commentators have been writing about has finally hit Dunder Mifflin. Unfortunately for Michael Scott, the war simply can’t be won in a PT Cruiser. Nor can it be won by sabotaging a Xerox machine. Rather, the war for talent is won with innovative recruiting and retention practices, fair and respectful management, and strategic planning. Regrettably, these just aren’t Michael’s strong suit. After all, this is the same manager who openly ridicules his employees; who relies on racial stereotypes when making employment decisions; and who asks his employees for loans.

Luckily, this time Stanley was bluffing. But next time Dunder Mifflin might not be so lucky. And when they do finally lose the battle, the want ad for a replacement really shouldn’t say “Wanted. Middle-aged black man with sass. Big butt. Bigger heart.” But we all knew that already, didn’t we?

 Page 2 of 2 « 1  2