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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Stand by Me

December 02, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  Implementing an antinepotism policy = $800; medical bills for Dwight’s tumble from his secret standing stool = $1,000; applying your “buffalo wings passion” to all aspects of your life = priceless.

Last night’s episode contained some interesting revelations about our friends at Dunder Mifflin Sabre.  Indeed, Creed may be part of a secret suicide cult, Phyllis is prone to “classic room-clearing farts,” Oscar likes to put puppies in ladles for photo purposes, and Creed spends part of his work day playing with a toy helicopter on the roof.  In addition, we learned that there is someone who actually intimidates regional manager Robert California — his wife, Susan.

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All’s Fair in Love and War

November 18, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Dunder Mifflin seems to have escaped the week without major liability. But that doesn’t mean that everyone behaved.

Another week, and Andy is still looking for ways to motivate and inspire his team. You’ve got to hand it to him: his analogy of business as war is, at least, more logical than most of the stuff Michael used to come up with. In an effort to bring the office together and get them motivated to attack their competition with renewed vigor, Andy organizes a trip to Gettysburg, complete with pink hats that read, suggestively, “DM does GB.” (This might have been more obviously obnoxious to someone who doesn’t work in D.C. I’m a bit desensitized to tour groups with bright matching apparel.) About half of the office decides to accompany Andy on his meticulously researched battlefield tour… but, as usual, there’s plenty of strife to go around.

Dwight accuses the Gettysburg staff of covering up information about the northernmost battle of the Civil War, the Battle of Schrute Farms. As he regales Erin with stories of his interpretation of Civil War history, Oscar admonishes Dwight not to fill “the poor girl’s head” with nonsense because “she doesn’t know any better.” Fortunately, Erin missed the snarky comment – but I didn’t. This isn’t the first time that Oscar has behaved in a condescending manner toward his coworkers. In an earlier episode, Jim mentioned that Oscar is known around the office as “Actually,” due to his penchant for correcting people. Oscar, a little friendly advice: sure, there’s no law against being a know-it-all, but you might want to consider playing a little bit nicer with your co-workers. For instance, what if you ever wanted to jump ship and find a new job? Plenty of employers will reject an otherwise qualified applicant because they don’t think that the applicant’s personality would mesh with the office, or they believe the applicant would be unpleasant to have around all day. And that’s not unlawful. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, Oscar.

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Funny Business

November 11, 2011 - by: Joshua Drexler 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: minimum $300,000 if Dwight is retained.
Once again, Dwight Schrute illustrates well what it means to “cross the line” while at work. He even raised the bar on inappropriate behavior at the Scranton branch, a feat we heretofore believed impossible. For those of you who missed this week’s episode, I’ll briefly describe.

Pam becomes fixated on whether Jim is attracted to a new employee, Kathy, who is training to replace Pam temporarily while she is out on maternity leave. Jim vigorously denies any such attraction, but Pam ultimately slides into a state of paranoid lunacy. She makes a deal with the devil to learn the truth at all costs – unleashing Dwight for the task. At that point, we knew we were in for a good time. Give Dwight free reign to do anything and you will not be disappointed. Or, I should say, we will not be disappointed as the antics ensue.

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No Doom, No Gloom

November 04, 2011 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Sabre had better continue socking money away for a settlement with several female employees for their sexual harassment claims against Gabe. First poor Erin, and now “Warehouse Val” has to put up with Gabe’s creepy courtship. Robert may want to ship Gabe back to Tampa before he does any real damage. And Andy’s dance moves aren’t helping matters.

Well, I’ll start with the cold open and just give myself a little pat on the back for predicting that Andy’s management style would be musical. Deciding that the office needed an end-of-the-day ritual, Andy instituted a new policy of singing “Closing Time” with his coworkers each day. Problem is, they don’t know the words, or just don’t care to sing along. Andy’s attempts to get people in the singing spirit with inappropriate dance moves . . . cringe-worthy, to say the least. Andy, I’ll be your lawyer here. If you’re going to try to turn your subordinates into a singing group, please don’t incorporate a towel into your dance routine. Thanks.

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That Fevered Night

October 28, 2011 - by: Matt Rita 2 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: Not much on the employment law front. But, for many of our readers in Central Daylight Time (you know who you are), the goings-on during — and especially after — the most recent airing of The Office might have given rise to at least the kernel of an emotional distress claim.

Allow this week’s blogger to make an opening disclaimer:  In his lifetime, he has witnessed both the highs and the lows of World Series sixth games. But admittedly, those characterizations are very much a matter of perspective.

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California Scheming

October 20, 2011 - by: Doug Hall 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value:  More fodder for potential sexual harassment, sexual orientation, and national origin claims, but it could have been worse. At least Andy didn’t run naked through the parking lot with a doughnut on his ding-dong — that would have put me off of Krispy Kreme for awhile.

Was really looking forward to being able to discuss a new episode of The Office following the summer reruns and … NBC puts up a rerun of “The Incentive” against the World Series. Que sera. My colleague Josh Drexler gave his take on the episode (check it out at http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/2011/09/30/southern-exposure/), and now it’s my turn.

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Green Thumb, Brown Nose

October 17, 2011 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS

“The Garden Party” episode was light on employment litigation but heavy on workplace psychology. Poor Gabe. His capacity for humiliation knows no limits. I wasn’t sure he could sink lower than his public dumping at the hands of Erin last season, but then we witnessed his repeated sycophantic toasts of Robert California. Sad, right?

Maybe not. Before we feel pity for Gabe, what if he’s on to something? Does brown-nosing in the workplace work? Some research suggests that, yes, it does. A 2004 study in the Journal of Applied Psychology concluded that “ingratiation” (read: sucking up) by job interview candidates had a positive impact on the interviewer’s perceived fit, while self-promotion had a nonsignificant impact.

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Grease Lightning

October 07, 2011 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: allowing office staff to take over the warehouse and invent a new loading method = several bizarre Workers’ Compensation claims; Andy asking Oscar about his “wildest fantasy guy” while choosing new warehouse personnel = yet more fodder for Oscar’s potential claims; and controlling your own destiny = priceless.

This week’s episode started off with the warehouse crew winning the lottery and promptly resigning to pursue other dreams, including opening adult entertainment venues and creating “an energy drink for Asian homosexuals.”  Darryl is less than thrilled for his former warehouse co-workers, given that he used to participate in the lottery before his promotion and the crew won using the numbers from his birthday.  Darryl is too depressed to complete his task of hiring a replacement warehouse crew, which leads Andy to ask for volunteers to ship the day’s orders.  With Dwight, Jim, Erin, and Kevin covering the warehouse, what could go wrong?  One damaged wall, one mostly empty shipping truck, one lost customer, several injuries, and numerous greasy paper boxes later, Darryl and Andy both learn to have a greater appreciation for experienced warehouse crews.

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Southern Exposure

September 30, 2011 - by: Joshua Drexler 1 COMMENTS

Litigation Value: The exposure promises to be vast when California finally takes the plunge.

Who is this Robert California? What are his credentials? When did he arrive in Scranton? Where did he come from? How long until he does something highly illegal?

Clearly, a lot of mystery surrounds Mr. California. Whatever his secret may be, he is inspiring the members of the Scranton branch to rise to new and greater levels of productivity, camaraderie, and ultimately and most importantly, sheer lunacy. For example, Andy has taken to motivating the team by offering up his buttocks as a personal billboard. Lucky for him, his subordinates were merciful and chose not go with their initial choice for Andy’s tattoo – the image of a baby crawling out his derrière.

And it is not only grand acts of lunacy that Mr. California is inspiring. There’s an uncomfortable buzz around him that affects everyone in his path. Erin kisses him on the cheek after handing him a cup of coffee. Andy calls him dad. Kevin is prone to shouting and angry confrontations.

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