Employment law attorney Troy Foster examines the “Stress Relief” episode of The Office, which aired after the Super Bowl. He finds that Dundler Mifflin could be liable to Stanley for the stress Michael and Dwight cause him, to Meredith for Michael’s boorish jokes, and to Oscar for Michael’s weekly homophobic and racist comments
Litigation Value: $615,000 Total
This really was a super episode. Give them one hour, and our friends at The Office will give you major liability. Let’s analyze the biggest three claims separately.
Stanley: $500,000. It doesn’t take Jackie Chiles to tell you that Stanley is in line for a big money judgment from Dunder Mifflin. Dwight, acting on behalf of the company by David Wallace’s own admission, caused Stanley to have a heart attack by simulating a fire in the office. Then, upon his return to work, Michael forced Stanley to use a wheelchair and almost caused another heart attack when he made Stanley resuscitate a dummy that Dwight later scalped. By the end of the episode, at least Stanley was laughing at Michael’s jokes like he was Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple. All in all, a big week for Stanley.
Meredith: $100,000. Meredith wasn’t prominently featured this week, but in the short time that she was, she got harassed more than Kurt Warner did by the Pittsburgh Steelers. First, it was revealed that Michael had posted a picture of Meredith topless with a sign calling her gross. Then, Michael roasted her by saying that she had slept with so many guys that she was starting to look like one. Check mate. The only weakness in her case is that Meredith seemed to find this funny. Next time we’d like to see tears and perhaps a session or three with a therapist. Still, let’s give her a hundred grand for her time and effort.
Oscar: $15,000. Nothing out of the ordinary for Oscar this week. Michael made a demeaning gay joke or two (including, “that’s what he said – gay!”), and also made fun of Oscar’s race, to boot (“Si, senor.”). Oscar had this coming to him for trying to make Michael cry, but the lesson here is that even if employees make you cry, that doesn’t mean that management has the right to retaliate.
I’m sure there are others with claims, but for now let’s leave it at those three. Check back Thursday for analysis on another new episode!