LITIGATION VALUE: $150,000
I empathize with Michael. There is nothing worse than the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that you just accidentally forwarded that witty e-mail (which you worked on all morning) mocking your boss’s bad suits and strange habits to your boss, herself, rather than to your clever cohorts in accounting. Not only could such an error get you fired, but careless e-mails often cause even bigger problems. Indeed, e-mail is fast becoming the “smoking gun” of employment litigation and threatens to become even more so with the implementation of new e-discovery rules which require employers to retain and produce volumes of electronic information during the course of litigation. And, just a hint, even if you are able to “recall” the e-mail, most people have already read it. My advice is to think twice before sending any e-mail and, if you would not feel comfortable printing the same message on company letterhead, then don’t send it. Well, that and to ALWAYS, ALWAYS double check the recipient.
On a somewhat related note, the relationship between Michael and Jan will also have potential plaintiff’s lawyers seeing dollar signs. Sure, everything was great in Jamaica. But what happens after the tans fade (or after Jan learns that Michael sent a picture of her in a partially unfastened bikini to the entire packaging department) and they split up? While office relationships are never a good idea for anyone, they are potentially disastrous for supervisor and her subordinate. A few months from now, Michael could cry “sexual harassment” and claim that he felt pressured to sleep with her in order to advance his career, and Dundler Mifflin is looking at pricey problem. Plus, Jan has lost credibility with the employees who report to her and will lose the respect of her supervisors once they find out. Of course, these comments could also apply to Dwight and Angela, Ryan and Kelly, and to Jim and Karen. I don’t know about you, but my office does not have nearly this much juicy gossip. Maybe if it did, yesterday would have gone by a lot faster.