Opening Statements

The Office: Judgment Day

Posted May 1, 2007 2:32 PM CDT
By Jill Schachner Chanen

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A regional manager of a paper company calls gay employees “faggy” and asks two female employees to act out a love scene as part of a sexual harassment training program.

Actionable? Probably. And Julie Elgar, a labor and employment lawyer with Ford & Harrison in Atlanta, has set up a blog to speculate on what the plaintiffs could recover. These scenarios aren’t real the egregious behavior in question played out on the hit NBC TV show The Office. But it got Elgar thinking. In January, she launched That’s What She Said, a blog devoted to examining each week’s egregious breach and estimating how much it could cost the company, including compensatory damages, punitive damages, back pay and litigation costs like depositions and expert witnesses.

Among her conclusions? The company should set aside about 700K for the coerced lesbian liplock and bank another 450 thou for Michael Scott’s insensitivity toward his gay employees.

Aside from its humorous appeal, Elgar says the exercise provides great fodder for the human resources management training programs she conducts for clients. “It is obviously so exaggerated,” she says, “But I can always find a kernel in every show and use it as a great segue to talk about what the law requires.”

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