LITIGATION VALUE: $30,000 (But it could have been much higher)
“Business is always personal” is probably not the best motto for a manager. It could lead them to act impulsively. Like, say, moving an employee’s desk from the front of the office to an “annex” inhabited by the employee’s chatty, fashion-crazed, quasi (ex?) girlfriend as a punishment for suggesting that the company could someday go out of business. But … would it be illegal? Maybe. Or at least it would be if Ryan’s speech could be considered a protected activity under Sarbanes-Oxley, the anti-discrimination laws, or some type of state whistleblower statute. Because Ryan’s speech (well, the part of it we could hear) probably did not implicate any of these statutes, Dunder Mifflin will likely dodge a bullet.
On the other hand, if Ryan had complained of discrimination and Michael had reacted the same way, then the Company would be looking at significant exposure. In a discrimination case, a manager’s actions do not necessarily have to be related to the workplace to land a company in hot water. Rather, an employer’s action need only be “materially adverse” to start the ball rolling. Telling an employee’s business school classmates that he has never made a sale and publicly berating him could do it. And I’m pretty sure that most guys would find being saddled with Kelly to meet this standard!
As for the bat, well, that seems like something that OSHA might be interested in. Just don’t let Michael hear about it – OSHA has an anti-retaliation provision too.