Cheer or fear

December 28, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $0.00 for a drunk, passed out (and likely concussed) Daryl, but Jim has a cause of action for battery against Belsnickel.

My colleague, Doug Hall, wrote about the “Dwight Christmas” episode three weeks ago when it first aired.  I agree with him that employers need to be careful with their holiday social events to minimize potential liability.  However, it appears that many states, including Pennsylvania, will not impose what is commonly called “social host” liability.

In the Congini case, the employer hosted a Christmas party where it served free alcohol to employees and guests.  A visibly intoxicated employee left the party in his car and was seriously injured in an accident.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the employer could be held liable, but only because the drunk employee in that case was a minor.  The court reaffirmed the general rule that an adult host serving alcohol to his adult guests should not be liable for injuries they subsequently cause or suffer.

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Rocking around The Office tree

December 19, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: the cost of a new iPod for your office Secret Santa = considerably less now than in Season 2 (depending on the model); potential liability for Scranton holiday antics over the last nine seasons = an obscene amount; the countless hilarious and heart-warming moments of The Office Christmas episodes = priceless.

As we are wrapping up our gift shopping, putting the finishing touches on our festive decorations, and whipping up some tasty holiday treats, I thought now was a good time to look back on some favorites from the many delightful moments The Office has given us in its Christmas episodes over the years.   

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Categories: Michael Scott

Die Hard … with a Christmas vengeance

December 06, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS
Doug Hall

Litigation Value: $50,000 or so, depending on how much harm comes out of an essentially unsupervised holiday party

It is the annual Christmas episode of The Office, and it’s bittersweet as Jim and Pam talk about how this will be the last Christmas party for the both of them at Dunder Mifflin Scranton–much like it will be our last Christmas show with this group. The episode feels a bit thrown together at the last minute compared to previous Christmas shows, just like the office’s party itself. The entire office has somehow overlooked that today is the day for the Christmas party, forcing the party-planning committee to scramble to come up with something.

In the absence of any better idea, the planning committee (minus Angela) seizes on Dwight’s idea to hold a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas, just like he experienced as a child. Dwight manages to put on quite the production, complete with a visit from Belsnickel, the fur-wearing, switch-wielding Christmas gift-giver. (I, along with the denizens of The Office, was surprised to find out that Belsnickel is part of a real southwestern German tradition.) In the meantime, Jim is anxious about getting to Philly to start his new job, while Andy and Erin drift further apart, with Erin finding a shoulder to cry on, and to watch Die Hard with, when Andy informs her that he plans to stay a couple of extra weeks in Barbados (or is it the Bahamas) to “figure this life thing out.”

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Conspiracy theory

November 30, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Potential Liability: Angela and Trevor are going to jail. Dwight too?

Not even Rainn Wilson’s recent video could keep us from watching this week’s episode, “The Target,” which featured a murder-for-hire plot, a giant comment-card pyramid, and Dwight’s pixelated genitalia. Yikes, indeed.

Angela has discovered that her husband, The Senator, is having an affair with Oscar. She does not react well and enlists (who else?) Dwight to procure the services of Trevor, a hapless wannabe killer for-hire. Spoiler alert: Trevor does not kill Oscar. In fact, Trevor does not even maim Oscar. This is in part due to Trevor’s incompetence, in part due to Oscar’s obvious self-defense training, and in part due to Dwight’s last-minute intervention to prevent Oscar from being knee-capped. Oscar is unharmed, but that is not going to stop Angela and Trevor from going to prison, and possibly Dwight, too.

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No woman, no cry

November 19, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: Dwight’s sexual and sexist comments regarding women = additional fodder for a hostile work environment claim (not to mention Clark’s potential claims); Jim taking calls about starting a different company on Dunder Mifflin time = a potential breach of the duty of loyalty; taking another trip to crazy town with Jan = priceless.

With David Wallace unavailable (and wisely so), Dwight has the opportunity to land a major new client and boost Scranton’s sales. Unfortunately for Dwight, the potential client is female and Dwight has difficulty relating to business women. Never fear–it’s Pam to the rescue with a crash course on dealing with high-powered, shoulder pad-wearing businesswomen. It’s no surprise that Dwight has difficulty with Pam’s training but, regardless, all bets are off when the secret potential client turns out to be Jan. Dwight may have landed the sale against all odds but his success doesn’t come without consequences. Here’s my own crash course for Dwight on dealing with a professional woman.

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The Boat – Let’s finish the season before it sinks…

November 09, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 0 COMMENTS
Adam Klarfeld

Although last night’s episode focused more on the personal side of the characters’ lives rather than the professional, it’s always the personal stuff that leads to the really juicy legal issues. Last night, Andy emerged as the leader of his family in dealing with the aftermath of the family’s ongoing financial crisis. Dwight took the brunt of another elaborate prank. And, Kevin learned about Oscar’s affair with “the Senator.”

The first story line isn’t particularly interesting from an employment law perspective. Perhaps a trusts and estates lawyer would have been more interested in Andy’s unilateral decision to sell the boat and then sail it (uninsured with little experience) to the Caribbean with his brother.

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Categories: Michael Scott

Crazy About Nellie

October 25, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $0.00 provided Dwight reins in his hostility to Nellie’s anxiety meds.

Amidst the costumes, bad investments, and a cappella singers (OMG COLBERT!!!!!), this week’s episode — Here Comes Treble — reminds us that harassment on the basis of disability is just as verboten in the workplace as sex- or race-based harassment. Dwight found a little yellow pill under the sofa and learned it was anxiety medication. So he started hunting for the office “crazy person.” He eventually learned that the medication was Nellie’s and fortunately left it alone after that.

But what if instead Dwight started teasing Nellie for being on anxiety medication? And what if Nellie complained about Dwight to Andy but nothing was done, or worse, Andy joined in the teasing? And what if Dwight’s unremedied teasing made Nellie’s condition worse, even to the point that she could not work anymore?

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Don’t research and drive – “Andy’s Ancestry”

October 05, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 0 COMMENTS
Adam Klarfeld

Andy and Nellie’s feud continued in last night’s episode (“Andy’s Ancestry”) and Nellie’s revenge strategy was actually kind of funny. In response to Andy’s directive to research his (and eventually everyone else’s) ancestry, Nellie made up various historical figures that were supposedly related to the staff members. Andy was initially excited to learn about his shared ancestors with Michelle Obama; but after Oscar pointed out that Andy’s ancestors therefore likely owned slaves, Andy became a little conscious of his “bossiness” for the rest of the episode.

While Andy’s continued harassment of Nellie may or may not be actionable (after all, it does not seem to be based on any protected class; he just doesn’t like her), the biggest threat to the company in this episode seems to be Nellie’s texting and driving. When she starts to read a text from Andy while driving Pam’s car, Mrs. Halpert wisely grabs the phone. Nevertheless, texting and driving is a major problem for all of us. In 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that 28% of all traffic accidents were because of talking or texting on cell phones while driving. 

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What NOT to wear to an interview

September 27, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Litigation value: $0.00, but only because Pete has a conscience and Daryl is a cinephile.

In last week’s season premier, new guy Pete was compared to Jim, while other new guy Clark was compared to Dwight. I’m all good with the former comparison, but the latter is waaaay off. Dwight beds his women using blunt Shrute charm. Clark’s ruse to seduce Erin was plain creepy. Thankfully Pete stepped in because Andy was clueless.

If not for Pete’s intervention as makeup man, Dunder Mifflin may be defending a lawsuit by Erin for negligence. Consider the facts. Branch manager Andy acquires knowledge that one of his young male employees intends to lure one of his young female employees back to his apartment, ply her with wine, doll her up in sexy outfits, and film her. Andy’s response? Here, take my credit card. (Shaking head sadly.)

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Three Dwight Circus

September 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 4 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Litigation Value: Andy’s vocal hatred for Nelly = fodder for her brewing constructive discharge and breach of contract case; New versus Old Dwight dynamic = possible future age discrimination issues; watching Old Dwight’s jealous alter ego attempt a terrifying stunt in the parking lot to put New Dwight in his place = priceless.

The Office kicked off its final season with quite a bang. With a New Dwight (“Dwight Jr.”) and a New Jim (“Plop”), Oscar’s secret affair with The Senator, growing tensions between Jim and Pam over career issues, and the big reveal about the paternity of Angela’s baby, this season should be an interesting one. Andy is back and relishing his role as Regional Manager except for one small problem–Nellie is still lurking around. Hopefully Outward Bound has not resurrected angry wall-punching Andy.   

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