Mergers & Aggravations

May 10, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Whatever it is, David Wallace should pray that he’s not on the hook for it.

My colleagues and I have written on this blog about all of the costly potential lawsuits the Scranton branch has spawned since Sabre acquired Dunder Mifflin. Let’s assume some of these incidents have become actual lawsuits alleging discrimination or harassment. David Wallace, former DM executive and inventor of the Suck-It, is going to purchase Dunder Mifflin from Sabre. Question: Does Wallace inherit these lawsuits?

The answer depends (we’re lawyers, after all). It depends first on the structure of the transaction. If Wallace purchases the controlling shares of Dunder Mifflin in a stock transaction, then he steps into DM’s shoes and assumes all of its liabilities, end of story. On the other hand, if Wallace purchases Dunder Mifflin’s assets, then the general rule is that the purchaser of corporate assets does not acquire the seller’s liabilities.

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Categories: Management

Turf War; Smurf War

May 03, 2012 - by: Adam Klarfeld 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Wait, Dunder Mifflin might actually be a plaintiff in an employment dispute? In a surprising turn of events, the company may have claims against Andy Bernard for stealing a major client and against Jim and Dwight for stealing from the company. Not surprisingly, Dunder Mifflin is looking at liability ($150,000+) for Robert California’s “filthy” messages to his subordinate, Nellie. Also, Pam’s acquisition of Nellie’s cell phone raises several privacy issues in the workplace. WARN Act violations could also cost the company another $100,000.

This episode was like a law school exam. So many issues; so little time.
First, we see the Syracuse and Scranton salespeople fighting over the Binghamton office’s (former) clients. The Binghamton office seemingly closed with little warning. Assuming that Dunder Mifflin employs over 100 full-time employees overall and terminated more than 50 at this site, the company needed to comply with the notice requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and any New York-state counterpart. Damages under the federal WARN Act include lost wages (up to 60 days per employee), a civil penalty, and attorneys’ fees.

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Trouble at the Fundraiser

April 27, 2012 - by: Adam Keating 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much from this episode, but hopefully Dunder Mifflin will recognize the problems associated with socializing with an ex-employee.

This week’s episode illustrates some of the dangers of a disgruntled ex-employee. A recently fired Andy and his newly blossoming life crisis take center stage at a local fundraiser.

After a great cold open where Ryan tries to show off how seriously he’s mourning the loss of Smokey Robinson, we spend a little time at work before heading to a fundraiser thrown by Angela’s senator husband. Andy, who was terminated last week by Robert California, stops by the office as Erin’s date to the fundraiser. While waiting for Erin in the parking lot, Dwight informs the office that Andy is outside sitting in his car. This gets a few people worried that he is there to kill everybody. Erin and some others head out to his car to make sure everything is OK. Andy says he is. Kevin says he isn’t. This motif is repeated throughout the episode.

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Categories: Andy Bernard / Firing / HR / Management

Andy Goes Soft

April 19, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 5 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $200,000 for Andy’s severe emotional distress. Possible future litigation for his termination.

Not subtle. Not subtle at all. Nellie has already usurped Andy’s manager status. Then she hauls Andy and his coworkers into a conference room and writes “IMPOTENCE” in bright red letters on the flip chart. Robert California sits there, amused by the whole spectacle.

The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress has four elements: (1) extreme and outrageous conduct (2) inflicted intentionally or recklessly (3) that caused emotional distress, and (4) the distress was severe. Applying these factors to this episode, Andy has a viable action against Dunder Mifflin.

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Ooh, Ooh, She’s Magic

April 13, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much from this episode, but if Nellie sticks around her apparent prejudice against the Irish and Hispanics could lead to some sticky legal situations.

Another week, another party in Scranton. Last night on The Office, Robert had the party-planning committee working hard on a party to welcome Nellie into the fold. Problem is, the party-planning committee doesn’t actually like Nellie. Nor does anyone else in the office, for that matter. So Pam comes up with the idea to throw a terrible party for Nellie. The gang strings up black streamers, buys bad food (a carrot cake — it’s like a salad bar, as Kevin indignantly points out), and hires Creed to play “all originals.” And the piece de resistance — they hire a magician, because Nellie hates magicians.

But in the process of helping Nellie move into her new apartment while the party-planning goes on, Jim and Dwight learn that Nellie — prejudice against the Irish and Oscar notwithstanding — isn’t all bad. In fact, much of her abrasive attitude is rooted in having to start her life over in a new country after getting her heart broken by “a bloody stage magician.”

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Splish Splash

April 06, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  California and his cohorts swimming nude in front of employees = far too much to calculate; Andy trying to get his “monog” on = one trip to the hospital for an oxygen-deprived Dwight; and Kevin getting to create a party without the party planning committee’s input = priceless.

This was certainly not our first Dunder Mifflin party, but it was our first Office pool party which meant much hilarity and debauchery.  My colleague thoroughly covered this episode when it first aired in January.  As this period of re-runs continues, I wanted to take this opportunity to go over my top 5 tips for work-related pool parties. 

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Whoa Nellie!

March 29, 2012 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: None, though as a practical matter, Dunder Mifflin may have to make good on all those raises Nellie promised.

As tonight’s episode is a rerun, I thought I’d go back and review the March 15th episode (“Get the Girl”) that we managed to miss somehow. (For a recap of tonight’s repeat, “Mrs. California,” check out Kristin Gray’s excellent post from when it first aired — http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/2011/12/02/stand-by-me/).

Two plots run throughout this episode: Andy’s impetuous decision to drive to Florida to try to convince Erin to return to Scranton with him, and the shocking revelation that Nellie has been hired at the branch — and how she takes advantage of Andy’s absence to stage a coup and take his job. The first plot, though interesting for those of us who want the show to reach some sort of resolution about Andy and Erin already, has no obvious employment law liability issues. Erin no longer works for Dunder Mifflin, plus she’s sweet on Andy, so no risk of a sexual harassment claim against the company there.

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That’s What Friends Are For

March 10, 2012 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Nothing much to speak of, although Dwight will hopefully value Jim a little bit higher now.

Well, Dwight has a lot to thank Jim for after this week. I’d like to think that he might improve his attitude and behavior toward Jim — and the rest of the office, for that matter — but I don’t see that happening. Still, after Jim saved Dwight’s job, one hopes Dwight will be grateful. Discovering that Robert California was planning to tank the retail store idea and make Dwight the scapegoat — it turns out Robert hated the idea, but couldn’t veto it outright because “the great Jo Bennet” wanted retail stores — Jim showed an admirable determination to save Dwight’s career, despite Dwight’s incessant needling and taunting about his “victory.”

Personally, I wouldn’t have blamed Jim if he walked away after the first attempt to reach Dwight. (Being called a six-foot Hobbit had to hurt.) After all, Dwight hasn’t made much of an effort to be a good co-worker over the years we’ve known him. Who among us would have been sorry to see him go, if we had to work with him? Still, some of my favorite “Office” moments are those when Dwight and Jim team up, or when we see flashes of possibility for a friendship to develop between them. It probably never will — there’s too much bad blood there — but Jim’s gesture last night certainly gave me a lot of respect for him. (And for Pam, too, for encouraging Jim to help Dwight out.)

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Pyramid

March 01, 2012 - by: Brian Kurtz 1 COMMENTS

Litigation value: $150,000. This isn’t Hooters, Dwight. Requiring Kathy to flirt with customers is sexual harassment. Additional damages if Todd Packer plays his sexual predator role as well as we suspect he can.

“Bloggers are gross. Bloggers are obese. Bloggers have halitosis.”

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Tighten Your Saddles

February 24, 2012 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Cathy showing Jim the “Talla-Nasty” = yet more fodder for Jim’s sexual harassment lawsuit; five dots = a murky texting area and potential lawsuit for Darryl; and watching Dwight work himself into a human bedbug trap = priceless.

This After Hours episode has the gang engaging in conduct that should make any human resources professional cringe. Tighten your saddles, because it is bound to be a bumpy ride. While the Scranton branch is working late, the Florida team is hitting the hotel bar scene for some debauchery. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the fact that the conduct occurs outside the workplace does not necessarily free an employer from liability, particularly when a supervisor instructs her employees that bar attendance is “compulsory.” 

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