Thursday, July 25, 2013

Giving Employee the “Milton Treatment” Leads to Discrimination Claim

And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting … I’m going to quit. And, and I told Dom too, because they’ve moved my desk … four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see … the squirrels, and they were merry, but then, they switched … from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much … and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll have to … I’ll set the building on fire...

– Milton Waddams, Office Space

I love the movie Office Space. One of the movie’s best sub-plots involves Milton Waddams. Milton works for Bill Lumbergh, and is Lumbergh’s punching bag. Lumbergh belittles him, steals his red Swingline stapler, continuously reduces the size of his cube, and, ultimately, transfers him to a basement storage closet. All the while, Milton mumbles under his breath that he’s going to set the building on fire. True to his word, Milton ultimately gets his revenge by burning down the office.

Why am I telling you the plot of Office Space? Because, according to this story in the St. Joseph, Missouri, News-Press, a former employee of the Missouri Department of Transportation is alleging that the department discriminated against her because of her age by … are you ready … moving her out of her office and forcing her to work from a moldy storage closet.

While there are two sides to every story, generally it is a bad idea to react to an employee’s internal complaint about age discrimination by moving her workspace from an office to a storage closet. Milton earned his revenge by arson. This employee is seeking hers via the courts. Either way, giving any employee the Milton treatment, let alone doing so on the heels of a complaint about discrimination or some other protected activity, is a horrendous idea.

This post originally appeared on The Legal Workplace Blog.