There are a plethora of movies that take place in office settings. From Swimming with Sharks to The Wolf of Wallstreet, we’ve all seen our fair share of a fictitious workplaces. More often than not, the hijinks portrayed can just scream LIABILITY to any competent employment law attorney.
From hostile work environments resulting in unpaid wages to downright untamed, cacophonous office parties resulting in sexual harassment claims, there’s a lot to take in as an employment attorney. I took the liberty of combing through some media involving the office setting, and the cringe-inducing liabilities portrayed in each. Scroll down to see if your favorite office movie or media is listed below!
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Anne Hathaway, playing Andy Sachs, stars in this tale of a hostile, cliquey work environment at a high-end fashion magazine. While she struggles and ultimately wins the favor of her prickly superior, she does so by righting the wrong of her fellow coworker, Emily. She is rewarded with Emily’s place beside her boss in Paris for Fashion Week.
All Emily did was forget to bring something to her superior’s attention and she was instantly retaliated against. She lost her hard-earned business trip to Paris that she was promised, she lost favor with her boss, and she gets virtually replaced in every way by the new girl Andy. Employers cannot retaliate against employees cruelly and unfairly, which is a common occurrence throughout the film. Working in a high-paced and stressful work environment does not excuse abusing employees or breaking the law.
Office Space (1999)
Beloved cult film Office Space may be the first office movie that comes to your mind. Perhaps the most famous of the characters is Milton Waddams, the stapler obsessed, nervous mess of an employee. When the consultants from his firm discover he was terminated five years ago, something Milton and accounting were not aware of, they decide to stop his payroll without informing him.
This is clearly an egregious wage & hour employment law case. Milton continues working per usual, with no knowledge that his pay has been completely cut off. While employment laws can vary, on both the state and federal level, this is a clear-cut case of wage theft! Terminating Milton may have been a valid response to the company audit Initech was undergoing, but he is entitled wages for his dutiful company work.
The Office – Back from Vacation (2005 - 2013)
Oh, Michael Scott. The employment law liability poster child. The regional manager is no stranger to office conflict and hoopla, but the twelfth episode of the third season may just be one of his more egregious blunders. Michael returns from a vacation that he secretly spent with his corporate superior, Jan. In an attempt to ingratiate himself with his lewd coworker, he shares semi-nude photos of himself and Jan on the beach, which quickly make the rounds of the entire office and warehouse.
Michael not only kept his illicit relationship with Jan a secret from Dunder Mifflin leadership, but he exposed an ostensibly private photo of Jan and shared the image with at least the entire Scranton branch. This clearly falls under a workplace sexual harassment claim. His comments and cavalier attitude promoted an unhealthy and offensive environment for the women of the office, including those he should be managing. Michael’s lucky his boss didn’t outright fire him for the blunder, but I suppose she had a bit of a conflict of interest in the matter.
Whether it’s a high-stakes fashion magazine or a sleepy regional paper company, there are right and wrong ways to treat employees. While we cannot litigate in the world of fiction, we do have resources for employment attorneys who are handling their own Office Space-like cases.
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