Follow Up On The Picket Line

December 14, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 12 COMMENTS

It is not that I don’t support the writers of The Office.  I do.  But I also think their situation is different than most other industries in the private sector.  When I look at the issue of unionization from a more global perspective, I firmly believe that most employees and companies are better off without a union.  Not to say that there aren’t some workplaces out there were a union isn’t the right choice.  It is just that those instances are few and far between.

Some have commented that employees need unions to obtain better pay.  This is a fallacy which is easily dispelled.  A union cannot guarantee better pay: it can simply try to negotiate for it  (much like employees can do without a union – and without paying union dues).  And when the union and the company do negotiate there are three possibilities:  (1) wages and benefits go up; (2) wages and benefits go down; and (3) wages and benefits could stay the same.

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Categories: Unions

The Picket Line

December 07, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 8 COMMENTS

The strike continues and it doesn’t look like it is going to end any time soon. Indeed, one blog reported yesterday that negotiations are actually going backwards! To make matters worse, it looks like several actors are honoring the picket line. I think we might be going without our beloved “Office” for several more weeks. I’m not sure that I can take it.

Some big names, such as Carson Daly, crossed the picket line and went back to work this week. Other big names have begun personally paying their staff’s salaries during the strike. But the reality is that many staffers have lost – and will continue to lose – their paychecks. I’m not talking about the fat cats who can afford to do so. I’m talking about those folks who work for them. At Christmas time. I can’t think of a better lesson for why companies should work hard to remain union-free. And I think its time that we started giving some tips on how they can do so. I’ve asked some experts in the area to chime in and give us some real-life guidance. So stay tuned.

Categories: Unions

A Shameless Plug: Vote For Our Beloved Blawg!

November 30, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

We’ve been selected as one of the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100, a list of the 100 best blogs for lawyers as selected by the editors of the ABA Journal, the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association. And they’re running a contest to determine which are the most popular. We are under the “gossip” category. So vote for us!

ABA Journal Blawg 100

Categories: Michael Scott

The Strike Continues

November 30, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 1 COMMENTS

Well, the strike of the writers’ union continues.  I don’t do that much traditional labor work so I’ve asked my colleague, Jerry Coker, to help me out as he is the firm guru on all things traditional labor.  He is also a huge fan of the show.  Here is what Jerry had to say:

Nothing too funny about a strike.  Not to the writers, their families (strikers don’t get paychecks), and not for the fans of Dundler Mifflin, a fictional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.   And certainly not to those employers who are trying to cope with one.  Federal law – the National Labor Relations Act – gives employees the right to strike in order to try and pressure their employer into agreeing with their union’s demands.  But what a lot of people don’t know is that companies have legal rights too (perish the thought!).  Seriously, an employer can hire replacement workers and – get this – can hire permanent replacements for economic strikers.  Sometimes the difference between a successful strike and one that’s a bust is whether the employer is in a position to actually hire replacements.  And – no surprise here – the more skilled the workers, the harder they can be to replace.  Like, for instance, talented Hollywood screenwriters……

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Categories: Unions

The Strike

November 28, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Looks like the folks at Dunder Mifflin will still be teaching us valuable lessons — even when they don’t know it.  Check back on Friday morning for some valuable tips on labor relations brought to us courtesy of the screen writers guild!

Categories: Unions

The Deposition

November 16, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

LITIGATION VALUE: $200,000 (including Dunder Mifflin’s attorneys fees and deposition costs)

Well, it finally happened. An employee has sued Dunder Mifflin for wrongful termination. I’m not usually one to say “I told you so” but, somehow, I just can’t stop myself this morning.

While it is probably not illegal to fire someone for getting a boob job, it is certainly illegal to fire someone based on gender stereotypes or characteristics. Unfortunately for Dunder Mifflin, it seems like this may be where Jan is headed. And that just can’t be welcome news for David Wallace and the gang.

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November 09, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 3 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $150.00 (for the birthday cakes)

As they always say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Nowhere is this more true than at office parties, birthday or otherwise. Lucky for Dunder Mifflin, the biggest party-related issue in last night’s episode was birthday cake. But sometimes employers just aren’t that lucky. Take, for instance, the annual holiday party. It is just amazing what can happen after folks get a few drinks in them. And, in many cases, employers are on the hook for the aftermath.

In many states, employers who serve alcohol at parties can be liable for the acts of their drunken employees. And that’s where it starts to get really expensive. Not to mention that free flowing booze can result in complaints of sexual harassment. After all, who hasn’t been to an office party where some outrageously drunk co-worker turns into the office-Casanova? I’m not saying employers necessarily need to turn into office party Scrooges; they just need to keep an eye on things. Sure, some folks will gripe about the limited drink tickets or the “no alcohol” policy but, as I said, you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Categories: Office Party

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?

Local Ad

October 26, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: $1,500.00 (or a few hours of their attorney’s time to prepare an internet usage policy)

It’s nice to be back! Thanks again to my guest blogger, Troy Foster, for pitching in while I had to work.

Did anyone else notice how many Dunder Mifflin employees were using their computers for anything but work? Creed was playing computer solitaire; Jim and Dwight were playing Internet reality games; and I’m sure that others were surfing all kinds of marginally inappropriate (and certainly not business-related) websites. In addition to the productivity lost to online bill paying, sports web sites and the Wall Street Journal online, unmonitored internet activity could expose Dunder Mifflin to a cornucopia of legal problems. For example, harassment claims brought after employees download crude jokes and forward them to co-workers; download porn; or use offensive images as screensavers. Unmonitored and unrestricted internet usage could also result in the disclosure of sensitive information. And now, as they roll out the new “Dunder Mifflin Infinity” technology, would be the perfect time to take preventative action.

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Categories: HR / Policies

Moonlighting: Who’s Left to Push the Paper?

October 19, 2007 - by: Julie Elgar 0 COMMENTS

Loss in productivity: $70,000 – $100,000/year Discount off of Dietco Supplement: $20/month

Two-night stay at Schrute Farms: Priceless

Once again, Julie is working extra hard this week for one of our clients and has asked me to fill in for her here on the blog. I’m Troy Foster a fellow labor and employment attorney with Ford & Harrison and an avid fan of the show. This week’s episode was classic Dunder Mifflin, I hope you enjoy the post.

Schrute Farms? Dietco Co.? Scranton C2? Now, while our friends at Dunder Mifflin aren’t known for their hard work and dedication, virtually nothing is getting done in the office now. How can it? There’s too much other stuff to do. Our top performer, Dwight, is too busy taking reservations for the farm (today’s frightening and real version of the Bates Motel). After he fills up the guest book, Dwight is busy all weekend long – table building, farming, and even tucking Jim and Pam in with a quick read from Harry Potter – the fun never stops. After chasing Mose around all weekend, it’s no wonder that he is wiped out for work on Monday morning. Michael is also yawning after his long hours at Dietco Co. The miracle diet formula is no miracle for Michael (though it might have been for his employees if he saw a little of himself in his obnoxious boss, Nick). He is so tired that he’s even more distracted than normal, if that is possible. He is unable to even remember Ryan’s presentation – not to mention the company policy that prohibits him from having a second job. In addition to his own desire to do nothing at work, he is affecting others – begging Kevin for gambling tips, and asking Oscar for another cash advance and financial advice.

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