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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Employment Law in the Land of Saul, Redux


Well, just last week, I noted that Better Call Saul had found its way to issues implicating employment law.  Now, a mere one week later, we return to world of employment terminations.*  As I said last time, someone in the Saul universe sure knows this employment stuff.

This time, the show explores quite sophisticated issues surrounding an attempt to get oneself fired without cause, in an effort to avoid voluntarily resigning.  Rarely if ever has such a gambit been pulled off with Jimmy McGill's aplomb.  Modeling one's workplace performance on Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man probably isn't ordinarily the trajectory to success with this strategy, but it sure did work for Jimmy.

This maneuver is one of the oldest and most venerable tricks in the book.  This is a highly nuanced context, where there can be a collision between such things as (i) the employee's not wanting to forfeit (or, in this case, return) compensation, (ii) the terminating employee's trying to retain entitlement to severance (not an issue in the Saul episode in question), (iii) reluctance on the part of the employer to assert cause, even where there may be a strong case for it (we saw this in the Saul episode), and (iv) a range of other nonlegal (and maybe even distinctly personality-driven) considerations (we certainly saw this in the episode).

And a key contextual point needs to be kept in mind: the natural inclination against wanting to be involved in litigation, on either side, is maybe as strong as ever in the employer/employer relationship.  The kind of personal barbs that tend to go back and forth, and the desire to cut the cord and simply move on rather than wallowing around in the muck of a messy divorce, contribute to an understandable desire to avoid protracted and public conflict.  The Saul episode hits these touchpoints will skill and precision.

Watch the way the foregoing plays out in the following exchange:

Ed Begley, Jr.'s Clifford Main - You win.

Bob Odenkirk's Jimmy McGill (eventually aka Saul Goodman) - What do I win?

Cliff - You're fired.

Jimmy - What?  Cliff, if this is about the bagpipes . . .

Cliff - It's not about the bagpipes. . . .  Well, of course it's the bagpipes.**  It's the bagpipes, and it's the not flushing, and this . . . this optical migraine you call a business suit. . . .  It's about . . . it's about you keeping your bonus, that's what this is about.  Been brushing up on your contract law, haven't you?  You want out of here, clearly, but you can't just up and quit and expect to keep your bonus.  And if I fire you for cause like I should have done for the TV commercial, again no bonus.  However, if I fire you not for cause but for being an all-around jacka**, . . . yeah, hooray for you.

Jimmy - If you think there's been some malfeasance here . . .

Cliff - Oh, save it.  I can fight you on this but you're not worth my time.  I'd rather just have you gone.

Jimmy - I'm sorry you feel that way.  I'll just pack up.

That's a pretty impressive capturing of the applicable dynamics, if you ask me.  It's all good, man . . .

* See also my earlier post on terminations of employment.

* A new bagpipe question emerges.  Which set of out-of-place bagpipes is more fun, Saul's when he finally succeeds in getting fired, or Bon Scott's in AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)"?

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