That's What She Said

The Beginning of the End Revisited

Litigation Value: Possible workers’ comp claim for Dwight for injuries sustained in trying to cross a “flaccid cord”; groundwork established for a breach of contract suit by Nellie if Andy follows through on his intent to fire her

Tonight’s “previously aired” episode takes us back to the first episode of this, the last season of “The Office.”  The film crew apparently took the summer off, as the characters start the episode by discussing what they did over the summer (including Kevin’s unfortunate encounter with a turtle in the parking lot), Andy returns from a corporate Outward Bound adventure, and we are introduced to Clark (“new Dwight”) and Pete (“new Jim”), the “new guys” of the title.  We also get the first hint of what later will be developed as trouble in paradise between Jim and Pam. (Personally, I cannot believe that, after finally getting those two together, much to the viewers’ delight, the producers decide to manufacture problems between them.  But I digress.)

From an employment law perspective, the two major issues involve Andy’s understandable unhappiness in finding that Nellie is, inexplicably, still employed. Based on Toby’s statement that she can only be terminated for “just cause,” Nellie apparently wheedled some sort of employment contract out of corporate. Undaunted, Andy tells Toby he intends to create a basis for terminating Nellie.  Toby accurately points out that Andy just made Toby a witness against him by telling him that (not to mention that it is all caught on tape). If Andy actually carried through with his threat to manufacture just cause to terminate Nellie, or if he constructively discharged her by making her work environment so hostile that no reasonable person would be expected to put up with it (such as by having garbage regularly lobbed at you, as happens to Nellie), Dunder Mifflin would be hard-pressed to defend a breach of contract suit by Nellie.

The other employment law issue arises when “old Dwight” tries to emulate “new Dwight’s” success in walking on a makeshift tightrope. Dwight falls several times, bloodying his mouth, before Toby finally and mercifully calls an end to the debacle. Although unrelated to his job duties, the involvement of everyone at the office, including the manager and HR, in this competition could well satisfy the “work-related” element of Dwight’s injury, exposing Dunder Mifflin to workers’ comp liability.

As the final episode of “The Office” looms, I can’t help but wonder what surprises might lie in store. Will Michael return? Will Jim and Pam work through their issues? Will Andy make an appearance on “The Voice” — and if so, will they let him play his banjo?  What do you all think we might see in the last few episodes?  Post your thoughts below!

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