That's What She Said

Invasion of the Privacy Snatchers

Employment law attorney Dominic Verstegen discusses Dunder Mifflin’s liability for its employees’ actions when Michael, Dwight, Kevin, and Oscar all cross the line and invade the privacy of their coworkers on the “Lecture Circuit, Part II” episode of The Office.

Litigation Value: $45,000

On the “Lecture Circuit, Part II” episode of The Office, there were at least a couple of incidents that could lead to a claim for invasion of privacy being made against Dunder Mifflin. Although Dwight’s conduct was the most egregious, Michael’s wasn’t much better. And even Kevin and Oscar need to use better judgment.

First, Dwight. As we found out late during the last episode, Dwight dug through Kelly’s file and found out that she went to “juvie” when she was 14. During this episode, we find Dwight interrogating Kelly, asking her what she did.  This is exactly the kind of outrageous conduct that could lead to a claim for invasion of privacy.  On the bright side, Kelly got a cake and a nap — and I would estimate a $30,000 verdict — for her troubles.

Over in Nashua, Michael joined in on the fun by snooping around Holly’s computer. Even though employees generally don’t have much of a right to privacy on their work computer, Michael’s unauthorized spying on Holly might just be enough to give her a claim for invasion of privacy. We’ll estimate a settlement value of $15,000.

Lastly, Oscar and Kevin watched Angela’s online kitty cam to spy on Angela while she was home licking her cats. This raises some hairy issues. Since the web stream of the kitty cam was on Angela’s computer, however, her claim for invasion of privacy isn’t the best.  Plus, juries don’t normally have a lot of sympathy for cat-licking ice queens.

I suppose it’s hard to imagine anyone at an office where they’ve had cameras following them around for five years complain that their privacy rights have been violated.  But even in TV land, Michael and Dwight went too far this time.