Do you ever watch a television series or see a Broadway musical and think about the employment law issues that are being raised?
(C’mon, I can’t be the only one out there.)
I was reminded of my inability to separate out fact from fiction when I went to see the Broadway-hit “Waitress” at Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford recently. It’s been a long-running production, so what was there not to like?
(And to be clear: The production is first rate, with great singers and cute sets.)
But one of the female waitresses gets hit on by her boss (and then engages in a relationship with him) and, well, isn’t anyone aware of the sexual harassment laws in this country?
The truth is that pop culture’s relationship with employment laws has always been a bit hazy.
Think back to all the workplace comedies that have graced our television screens. Co-workers and supervisors argue, insult, flirt, and proposition others. What we would find in real-life to be creepy, somehow turns into romantic when presented on the television.
Some will go back to “Taxi”, and Danny Devito’s insulting (but lovable?) dispatcher. Or Sam and Diane’s workplace relationship in “Cheers” leading to passionate kisses in the bar’s back offices. And don’t even get me started on “Mystic Pizza” in Connecticut.
Others will look at “The Office” and use “That’s What She Said” as the perfect saying for an office. (Long live the “That’s What She Said” employment law blog that ended a glorious run in 2013.)
Back in my, ahem, younger days, I used to watch “L.A. Law” and “Ally McBeal” all the time. (Ok, after the first few seasons, they kinda went downhill but still.)
In one, a partner dies in his office and a young partner (Arnie Becker) immediately claims “dibs on his office”. In another, it showed a law office where a young associate would prep for a trial the next day by sharing a pint of ice cream with their colleague in their bedroom.
Both were fun and escapist and didn’t really show what being a lawyer was really about.
Should we try to seek employment law lessons from pop culture (and, to be clear, I’ve sought a bunch of them over the years here, here and here, for example) or does pop culture’s ambivalence with employment laws reflect society as well?
I’m not sure of the answer but I do know that I should probably listen to the advice of a friend more — “Stop Thinking So Much Like a Lawyer and Just Enjoy the Show.”