Litigation Value: As to Dunder Mifflin, $500,000 (for potential hostile work environment, race discrimination/harassment, and/or intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress damages); as to Andy, $25,000 (for potential assault, battery, humiliation, and emotional distress damages); as to Michael, $300 (value of decapitated koi).
Eight seconds. That’s precisely how long Michael needed to both sexually and racially harass the multitudes. To set the stage, Michael emceed the Scranton branch’s office Halloween party, staffed by Scranton branch employees and attended by their friends and families, including numerous children (and it was principally for them). Unencumbered by restraint, Michael spared no opportunity to “gift” the audience with a sexually provocative costume (paying homage to Mr. Timberlake and S.N.L.). Aside from his perpetually poor judgment, Michael’s offensive attire alone could land Dunder Mifflin with a hostile work environment lawsuit, particularly given his supervisory role. When will he learn to be the example, instead of being made the example?
But, there’s more. By unceremoniously labeling Darryl, the lone African-American, the “Gangster Pumpkin,” Michael again crossed the line. Whereas the ever-relaxed Darryl takes Michael’s repeated gaffes in strides, a culmination of “innocuous” comments like these could land Dunder Mifflin with another lawsuit, this time for racial harassment and/or discrimination.
And, it gets worse. Michael’s realistically-simulated “hanging” –- precariously dangling himself from the ceiling by a noose, purportedly to teach the children the futility of suicide -– may have conceivably caused some partygoers to suffer severe emotional trauma. Indeed, Michael’s inappropriate, outrageous behavior could land Dundler Mifflin (and perhaps Michael himself) with a number of intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress lawsuits. Again, who promoted this guy out of the mailroom?
In the aggregate, Michael’s workplace frivolity was obnoxious, callous, and obviously unbefitting a member of management. Given that the Halloween party was hosted at, and by, the Scranton branch, for all practical purposes, as a matter of law, the atmosphere could be deemed the “workplace,” potentially giving rise to a host of employment-related legal claims.
Moving aside from the party, Pam and Andy, both running dead last in monthly revenues, were relegated to making dreaded sales calls. While conducting a sales pitch to a potential client, Andy innocently portrayed himself and the obviously pregnant Pam as a “couple.” Whereas Pam initially resisted Andy’s charade, she later comes to realize that client prospects find the “couple” idea appealing, and she begins to play along. Things quickly went south, however, when Andy engaged in nauseating baby talk, reached over to stroke Pam’s stomach (where he lingered for several seconds; minutes?), and ultimately gave her a belly kiss (“way too much”) –- all the while, sitting across from the prospective customer’s desk. Albeit inappropriate, Andy’s absent-minded behavior was an isolated event. And, Pam never really objected, Andy never really persisted, and Pam appeared relatively untraumatized in the end. Unless a repeat performance occurs, it’s unlikely that Andy’s (ab)normal behavior would cause Dunder Mifflin to face a lawsuit. On the other hand, if Pam were so inclined, she could pursue claims against Andy for assault, battery, humiliation, emotional distress, and the like. Pam doesn’t seem the type, though.
Finally, without fail, Michael’s ill-conceived attempt at sensitivity training was a complete bust. Typically so, it was all about him. And, coincidentally, it ended that way. During his latter attempt at self-deprecating humor, Michael self-destructed, becoming both the face and the butt of the joke.
However, Michael’s extreme embarrassment from falling into a client’s decorative koi pond (an event videotaped and later viewed by the Dunder Mifflin staff) was quickly overshadowed by the revelation that Jim –- now his managerial equal -– enabled the splashdown. Stay tuned for growing tensions between these two, particularly if Michael continues to micro-co-manage-co-micro-manage Jim.