No Nonsense

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http://blogs.hrhero.com/thatswhatshesaid/wp-content/blogs.dir/2/files/userphoto/kristinstarnes.jpgLitigation Value:  Office romance with the new Regional Manager (and A.A.R.M.) = fodder for a potential sexual harassment claim; eliminating nonsense from the workplace = every human resources manager’s dream; Dwight giving up a milk maid to marry his long-time love and father his beet-loving offspring = priceless.

As John Krasinski explained in a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon, Thursday’s episode marked the first half of a two-part series finale for The Office. As a side note, I definitely recommend you check out the interview on www.nbc.com.  The lip-syncing competition, which featured a bearded Krasinski passionately singing “I’ll Make Love to You” to Fallon, was comic gold.

As for our friends at Dunder Mifflin, Dwight and Jim banded together in an effort to eliminate all nonsense from the workplace (thereby creating even more nonsense, of course), Darryl returned to give a musical farewell to his former colleagues, and Jim helped Dwight realize what the rest of us have known for years–he and Angela are meant to be (cats, beets, and all). As with previous office romances, Angela and Dwight’s relationship makes for a great storyline and a happy ending, but such relationships can lead to major headaches and even litigation in the real world. In our court systems, all too often the plot follows more along the lines of manager meets subordinate, they date, the relationship sours, tensions flare, and suddenly the company is left defending a sexual harassment claim brought by the subordinate. This is exactly why some companies insist that employees sign “love contracts,” like the one Jan and Michael entered into all those years ago.

Aside from the more typical Title VII sexual harassment litigation we have often blogged about with regard to office romances, consider the more unusual theories of liability employers have faced regarding paramours and failing to prevent office liaisons. Employees have sued for sex discrimination based upon being passed over for a favored employment position due to a supervisor’s preference for his/her love interest or paramour. Nearly all courts have held that this type of action isn’t viable under Title VII because it doesn’t constitute discrimination on the basis of sex, given that all other employees (male and female) are similarly disadvantaged. Regardless, it is a recipe for poor employee morale and office conflicts leading to distractions and decreased productivity.

Furious spouses have even sued employers for failing to prevent extramarital affairs in the workplace. In Texas, for example, two employees entered into an extramarital affair. Their spouses sued the company for negligently interfering with their familial relations by failing to take action to prevent the affair. The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the employer. While Dwight and Angela are no strangers to illicit affairs (indeed, that’s how Phyllis ended up in charge of the Party Planning Committee over Angela), it seems Stanley has more to worry about when it comes to angry spouses, even without Michael around to spill the beans on Stanley’s extramarital activities. As Stanley pointed out, we all know where to start looking if he ever turns up missing.

Tune in later this week to catch our recap of the final episode. This blogger is looking forward to seeing: whether Meredith thinks she truly did come off smelling like a rose, given that she has supposedly been on her best behavior all these years; what (if anything) happens with Creed’s mom after the documentary airs; whether we’ll have a lovely Schrute wedding; and the storybook ending I’m sure is in store for Pam and Jim (P.B. & J.).

Topics:  Sexual Harassment, Title VII, Workplace Romances

Published In: Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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