That's What She Said

Getting a Little (Maid of the) Misty

Litigation Value: $0 for Dunder-Mifflin (consider the bullets dodged for now), but I’d love to be the plaintiffs’ lawyer representing those poor souls who got ice from the machine in which Kevin stuck his formerly Kleenex-boxed feet

I don’t normally cry at weddings, but I could see making an exception for the long-anticipated nuptials of “The Office” sweethearts Pam and Jim. Not because these characters found true love — they’re fictional after all. No, my tears were for the fact that the wedding takes the entire Office out of the office and on the road to Niagara Falls! (“Niagara Falls! Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch…”  – it’s an old Three Stooges routine, ask your parents.) How is any self-respecting employment lawyer — or me for that matter — supposed to write an employment law blog about an episode that doesn’t involve work? Well, I shouldn’t have worried, Michael Scott et al. never fail to deliver!

One point raised by this episode is that sometimes the “office” can still be the “office” even away from the “office.” Although the PB&J (Pam Beesly & Jim) wedding was not quite a mandatory Dunder-Mifflin event, it was close, what with the entire office shutting down so people could attend and Michael refuting Pam’s statement that Angela didn’t have to attend. Regardless, even in a social setting like a wedding, the boss is still the boss, and actions taken (and things said) between co-workers at a voluntary, social event could give rise to claims against the company and/or its managers individually. In fact, Dwight tries to lodge a complaint with Toby against Jim as a result of Jim’s delay in showing up for the ceremony.

Fortunately for Dunder Mifflin, neither of its newly minted “co-managers” committed any obvious faux pas — at least not the type that would lead to claims against the company.  Nor did any of the other employees engage in any activity likely to result in possible liability to Dunder Mifflin (but don’t let PETA find out about Dwight’s present to the happy couple, which included a live turtle and a hammer with which to dispatch it to turtle heaven). Maybe Andy would try to seek workers’ comp for his very unfortunate injury — an injury that I’m sure had all male viewers cringing — but again, I think that at the end of the day, the pre-wedding party would not be considered a work event. Plus, anyone attempting a “banana split” at his age, without having been a member of Cirque du Soleil, is just assuming the risk.

Before we close for the week, let’s spend a minute on the “cold open,” in which Pam tries to get her fellow workers to modify some of their odors while she is pregnant due to the effect it has on her stomach. The co-workers, naturally, refuse, leading to one of the more disgusting (yet funny) scenes in the history of “The Office.” Although I doubt that these particular facts would lead to claims against the company, we have seen real-life cases in which one employee has a severe allergic reaction to the perfume or soap worn by another, or employees object to a colleague’s lack of hygiene. Those are always ticklish situations to deal with, and crafting a solution can implicate a variety of socioeconomic and health questions. Tread lightly!