Litigation Value: $0. Shockingly no one did anything illegal in this episode. Dunder Mifflin suffered a full day’s lost productivity due to Corporate’s poor handling of the bankruptcy situation.
In this week’s episode, the recession finally hit Dunder Mifflin. Faced with such stress, I would have expected the Scranton branch to become a plaintiff’s lawyer’s dream, but shockingly, no one did anything that really violated any employment laws. Jim tricked Dwight into beating himself up instead of injuring Kevin, avoiding a potential battery and workers’ compensation claim. Although, I suppose Dwight could have made a workers’ comp claim based on his injuries since Dunder Mifflin sanctioned his Karate Seminar. Angela was uncomfortable with her game character and could have tried to make a religious discrimination claim because she did not want to be a voodoo witch doctor, but that’s a pretty weak claim. Dwight also should not have told the staff that they cannot unionize if they come work for him. It is illegal for an employer to prohibit unionization under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The real story this week was Corporate and David Wallace completely mishandling the employee relations aspect of the company bankruptcy. Corporate and Wallace did not violate any employment laws, but they needed some advice on how to present their financial problems to their employees. Wallace’s first error was sending a cryptic and panic-inducing email regarding the Wall Street Journal article. Hey David — telling employees “it’s just a rumor” does not disspell the rumor and only creates panic. By sending that email, Wallace guaranteed that no one at the Scranton branch would be able to concentrate on work the rest of the day. So, while the murder mystery game may have been an odd idea, it didn’t really cause any problems for the Scranton Branch that Corporate and David Wallace hadn’t already created.
I think Michael’s game might have actually helped the employees take their mind off of the fear and uncertainty felt at a time like that. Call it a team-building exercise. I can’t believe I’m actually supporting Michael! (Incidentally, I also completely support the Tube City idea. That would have been awesome!) Unlike Wallace, Jim made the right decision in not telling the rest of the employees that the company would be insolvent by the end of the year. The interview with Jim and Michael at the end of the episode was spot on. Management needs to have a clear idea of what is going to happen before it informs employees. I’m very interested to see how this unfolds.
What do you think about the different ways Wallace, Michael and Jim tried to handle the leaked bankruptcy information? Unlike most episodes where real offices will never experience the extreme antics of the Scranton branch employees, this week’s episode presents a situation that many offices face. A discussion in the comments section might be helpful for all.