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Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company needs a risk manager! The fictitious corporation is portrayed in NBC’s hit comedy, The Office. Office Manager Michael Scott–played by actor Steve Carell (a.k.a. the 40-year-old virgin)–is a clueless jerk of a boss who engages in many human relations no-no’s. He asks employees to disclose diseases to shave benefit costs, “outs” a gay employee who wants to keep his sexual orientation confidential, and tolerates multiple office romances. In the real world, such behavior would garner more lawsuits than comedic kudos. There is nothing funny about employment practices liability today.

In the hierarchy of risks and uncertainties that today’s risk manager juggles, few rival worries pertaining to employment practices liability. A recent full-page ad for the law firm of Fisher & Phillips depicts a young woman as a semi-transparent wraith walking the aisles of an office. The picture’s caption: “You fired her a year ago. Now she’s come back to haunt you.” Pin up the wrong calendar on your wall, tell an off-color joke, or forward a risqu? cartoon via e-mail to your office chums and you may be buying yourself a hefty lawsuit these days.

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