MTMMary Richards’ job interview with Lou Grant is, perhaps one of the most famous job interviews ever. So says Time magazine.

Before I go on, though, there are probably more than a few of you who don’t know what I’m talking about.

But with the passing of Mary Tyler Moore earlier today here in Connecticut, I was reminded of an early exchange from her television show that was included in an employee training seminar I did for employers many years ago.  It was used as an example (with humor) of what NOT to do in a job interview as a supervisor and there were many in the audience who remembered that television show.

I haven’t been able to find the actual video online – but YouTube does have a remake of the job interview featuring cartoons.  And you can get a sense of the dialogue elsewhere.

First, you have the supervisor (Lou) asking Mary what her age was. (Sigh.) To compound matters, he then asks what her religion is. (Double sigh.)

But this is where the show was groundbreaking — Mary doesn’t just respond.  She’s a “modern woman” (as The New York Times called her) and tells him: “I don’t know quite how to tell you this, but you’re not allowed to ask that question when someone is applying for a job. It’s against the law.”  He pushes back — “You gonna call the cops?” To which, Mary demurs.

And the interview continues with personal questions including whether she was married (she was not).  Then Mary stands up and calls him out for asking so many questions that have nothing to do with the job.

Lou responds in a classic line: “You’ve Got Spunk.”  Of course, he then says he hates “spunk” but this was the early 1970s and she was still hired.

It was groundbreaking television.  As NPR reported from an interview Ed Asner (who played Lou), that moment was critical: “It was the most powerful moment in theater I’ve had, because she played it so beautifully,” Asner told NPR in 2001. “The audience was going ‘oh-goo-goo’ at that moment.”

A few years ago, Time Magazine — in calling this show’s pilot one of the 10 best of all time — noted that it really formed the foundation of the workplace-as-family sitcom that so many other shows tried to copy.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, Mary Tyler Moore stood out to me because, well, she kinda seemed like my mom who was already in the workplace. Growing up, I didn’t see it as that unusual.

But now with the hindsight of history, all employment lawyers can point to Mary Tyler Moore as giving workplace issues their rightful place. And for a generation of women, Mary Tyler Moore represented more than just a television show.  She represented them.

Proper hiring procedures are still a topic we’re talking about today and I’ll be presenting on the topic next month.  Maybe it’s time I bring back the Mary Tyler Moore reference.  Watch for details soon.

Rest in Peace, Mary Tyler Moore.

(Due to an editing error (and spell check) an early version of this post referred to her character as Mary Roberts; it is obviously Mary Richards.) 

Suzanne Lucas, who writes under the moniker of the “Evil HR Lady” (and who is anything BUT evil), recently released a post about when an individual should hire an employment attorney.

She cites to another good lawyer/blogger — Chris McKinney — who also posted on the subject from an employee’s perspective.

But suppose you own or work at a small to mid-size business. Odds are you don’t have a lawyer in-house that you can discuss this with.  You may have an attorney you call from time to time.

What then?

Well, suppose you injured your leg going skiing. Would you have your primary care physician handle things or would you go to a orthopedic specialist?

That, in some ways, is the inquiry that you should be asking yourself.

Is the problem that you have something that any attorney can handle or is there something more to the issue?

There are a few situations that I’ve seen over time when clients seem to be happy about calling an employment attorney.

1. Getting sued is the most obvious one. But many times, the claims from an employee are filed at the agency level first.  Those proceedings are the best time to get an attorney involved in drafting and defending your company because what you say there will dictate your defenses at court later on.

2. Getting a letter from an attorney representing an employee is another situation when hiring an employment lawyer may be useful.  The desire to “lawyer up” isn’t necessarily a bad one. But an employment lawyer in Connecticut may be familiar with the employee’s attorney and can help defuse an otherwise-heated situation.

3. Getting a phone call from a state or federal agency doing an investigation of your workplace practices is still another situation. This can be a challenge because often times there is little advance notice. But having an employment attorney available for a call, can again save headaches for the employer and level the playing field.

This is, of course, not a complete list.  But thinking about these issues before you actually need an attorney can make it much easier when an “emergency” arises.