That's What She Said

Baby in the Office: A Slippery Situation

Litigation Value: Currently, $0

My stomach still hurts from laughing. This week on The Office, Michael Scott prepared for the birth of his make-believe baby by having Dwight Schrute, pant-less and on Michael’s desk, give birth to a buttered-up watermelon, all the while screaming about secretly marking the baby so no one could steal it.  Michael then ate his buttered watermelon baby.

Oddly enough, this offensive (read: incredibly funny) scenario is not the “pregnancy problem” in this episode. Michael did not discriminate against anyone based on pregnancy and no one suffered any sort of adverse employment action. Michael appeared to be truly excited that Jan was pregnant (or so he thought). This doesn’t mean that this type of behavior should be condoned. A story of grown men running around the office screaming, “My cervix is ripening!” and pretending that their water has broken would look really bad in front of a jury should some sort of pregnancy or sex discrimination claim arise.  But Holly should be far more concerned about Stanley than Michael in this episode.

Stanley does not like pregnant women in his workplace because “they always complainin’.” Thankfully, Stanley is not a part of management, and he has not been able to make any personnel decisions so far. But if Michael shared Stanley’s point of view, it could spell big problems for Dunder-Mifflin. Pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination and is prohibited in the workplace.  If Michael were to refuse to hire all pregnant women because they complain too much, the company could be open to liability. Pregnancy discrimination would not be Holly’s only concern, however.  If a pregnant employee were temporarily unable to perform her job due to a pregnancy-related condition, that employee could also be covered by disability discrimination laws.  (Swollen ankles, sore nipples, and constant hunger most likely would not qualify.)

Even though Stanley is not a part of management, his words are cause for concern. Discrimination on any level can affect employees of protected classifications. If management becomes aware of Stanley’s comments, it should take action to stop such comments and appropriately discipline Stanley. The company should also consider a discrimination training session with all employees.  Can anyone say Office discrimination training episode, round two?