The Boat – Let’s finish the season before it sinks…

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[author: Adam Klarfeld]
Adam Klarfeld

Although last night’s episode focused more on the personal side of the characters’ lives rather than the professional, it’s always the personal stuff that leads to the really juicy legal issues. Last night, Andy emerged as the leader of his family in dealing with the aftermath of the family’s ongoing financial crisis. Dwight took the brunt of another elaborate prank. And, Kevin learned about Oscar’s affair with “the Senator.”

The first story line is not particularly interesting from an employment law perspective. Perhaps a trusts & estates lawyer would have been more interested in Andy’s unilateral decision to sell the boat and then sail it (uninsured with little experience) to the Caribbean with his brother.

The elaborate media prank on Dwight, while not likely to lead to any legal liability for the company, shows the importance of having a media strategy / policy in place before anyone in the media approaches the company. Every company has a message to tell in the media (regardless of the situation), and every company does not want it’s Dwight Schrute telling it. Thus, we recommend training all employees (regardless of their position) to politely direct all media inquiries to the appropriate (non-Dwight-esqe) person. Members of the media do not usually call the company spokesperson directly; they typically approach any employee who will talk first.

Finally, Oscar’s affair with the senator may lead to all kinds of issues. I’m a little surprised that Kevin did not try to blackmail Oscar into doing his job for him in exchange for his silence. Then again, we’re talking about Kevin, who completely forgot about the affair when the Senator came to the office. There does not seem to be any precedent for whether this type of blackmail constitutes actionable sexual harassment (obviously, it’s not quid pro quo harassment) but let’s face it – nothing good can come out of this scenario for the company. Oscar’s false accounting report to human resources, while not necessarily unlawful, should effectively erase any credibility he had at the company. Certainly a terminable offense for most employers who rely on the honesty of its accountants. And, of course, there is the working relationship of the three employees in the accounting department to think about. But, that’s why we tune in. That, and because the Thursday night football matches have been pretty weak lately.