Last week’s episode of The Office, “Goodby Toby,” sure gave us plenty to chew on. So, I’m taking advantage of this week’s break to turn to another Dunder Mifflin pickle presented by the finale — Kevin. As we saw, Dwight planted the seed with Holly that Kevin is mentally disabled. Kevin’s natural demeanor certainly drove the point home. His disturbing (and often inappropriate) grin, his signature wave, his tone (or odd drone), and his apparent excitement over Holly’s pride in him for driving himself all just seemed like the traits of the Kevin that we all know and love — until Dwight’s joke!
Even though I think Dwight might be onto something (and I’ll never look at Kevin the same again), Dunder Mifflin could get into hot water with a potential claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even if Kevin is not disabled, the fact that Dunder Mifflin management (Holly) is treating him as though he were leaves us with no legal difference. Suppose Michael gives Kevin a poor performance evaluation, demotes, or even fires him (not a big stretch). Kevin can now claim that the adverse action was only taken because Dunder Mifflin “regarded” him as disabled and discriminated against him because of it.
Though we all work with our share of “Kevins,” we must caution management against labeling employees as being “retarded,” “slow,” or “mental nut jobs” (all terms from real ADA cases). It can really turn into a special problem.
Next week, we’ll take another look at “The Dinner Party.” Fun will be had by all!