Litigation Value: de minimus damage award (after spending $50,000 to “successfully” defend the lawsuit)
He rarely disappoints, and this week was no different. Michael Scott was in rare form in this week’s issue of The Office, “The Lover” (or should this episode have been titled “The Mother Lover” for all you SNL fans). Michael revealed to Jim that, since meeting her at Pam and Jim’s wedding, Michael has been engaged in a love affair with Pam’s mother. As Pam quickly learns, while it might be fun to office gossip when it involves someone else, when it involves you, not so much. (Oh, by the way, do you know anyone who would be excited to find out Michael was dating their mother? I don’t. Except, of course, Dwight.)
But it did give us one of the show’s best lines of all time: “Do not talk to me that way. I am your boss. And I may someday be your father.” Where’s Darth Vader when you need him? So to recap: Is it unlawful to sleep with the mother of one of your subordinates? Probably not. Is it a really bad idea? Oh yeah!
And then there’s Michael feeling up Jim while displaying his “blind guy” character. Can you say disability discrimination? Michael’s “blind guy” character shows an utter lack of sensitivity toward persons with disabilities, and this could easily be introduced as evidence in the next disability discrimination lawsuit against Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton office. Not to mention that Michael apparently uses this character as a way to grope females in his acting class!
But let’s not forget that Michael is not alone in filling Dunder Mifflin’s workplace with inappropriate conduct. Dwight inserting a listening device into his congratulatory duck so he could surreptitiously listen in on Jim’s private conversations would be considered by most courts as an unmitigated violation of Jim’s privacy rights. While most companies make sure employees understand that they don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using company systems like e-mail, this is almost akin to placing a video camera in the bathroom (don’t laugh, I actually had a client whose employee did this once).
Even if he is not acting in a managerial role, Dwight’s conduct would subject Dunder Mifflin to a common law claim for invasion of privacy. Fortunately for the company, Jim discovered the undercover “conquackulations” gift before he revealed anything too personal; they might get away with a de minimus damage award (after spending $50,000 to “successfully” defend the lawsuit). Fortunately for DM, Jim has a stronger sense of humor than he does a litigious streak.