Sunday night was the midseason finale of Mad Men. It’s always hard to stick with a television series for more then a few seasons, at least for me. Mad Men has been no different but I still follow along into season 7. The trials and tribulations of Don Draper have been fascinating coupled with the backdrop of the 1950s and 1960s the show has been quite entertaining. In addition to filling up Sunday evenings, the show has provided some wonderful examples of business partnerships and employer/employee relations. This season has been no different.
At the end of season six Don Draper had an epoch failure where he revealed his childhood secrets during an advertising pitch to Hershey’s:
That leads us to our top “legal” moments from this season:
1. Working from home.
After the Hershey’s meltdown, the firm concluded season six by sending him home. Season 7 begins with a very interesting arrangement Don has worked out. He gives off all appearances that he is working. His secretary answers his phone (though he has no office) and he returns calls and even has some limited meetings. He is also using Freddy, a former employee, to take some of his ideas to work. Problem is he is not allowed to work. He does not actively participate in anything and the powers that be wont’ let him near any accounts. Don continues to receive his paycheck but is not allowed to work. Not a bad deal, but he is in a downward spiral of booze and lethargy. The takeaway – Paid leave should be used in very limited circumstances and most often times will fall with within some sort of disability plan offered by an employer. Don’s situation is unique. As a partner in the firm, the other partners don’t want to buy him out but they don’t want him in the office. They don’t know what to do with him.
2. What to do in the face of a non-compete?
As the partners at Sterling Cooper & Partners struggle with what to do with Don, they realize the no-win situation that has been created. When Roger Sterling and Jim Cutler discuss Don’s non-compete agreement they reach the conclusion that if they fire Don the non-compete will not hold up in court and Don will go work somewhere else and might be entitled to damages from the firm. The takeaway – Make sure your partnership agreement has a clearly defined departure plan. Both the partners and the business need to know how they will depart if necessary.
3. A very specific contract.
The other partners eventually figure out a way to return Don to work. They draw up a very specific contract that forbids him from being involved in any business pitches and drinking, among other things. He basically goes back to being a low level ad guy under Peggy’s (his former worker bee) tutelage. Surprisingly, Don agrees and is back with the firm. The takeaway – draw up specific terms for any return to work plan. Set goals and requirements for the return of the employee that must be met. To often there is a meeting with a troubled employee with no real plan of action – just a memo to the file. Those don’t help if you really want someone to stay. Don’s partners did a good job in setting specific expectations here.
4. The attempt to force Don out.
So Don happened to show up for a business pitch with a cigarette company. Cutler uses this as an opportunity to force down out as a violation of his contract but the partners vote (right in the middle of the office in front of everyone) and Don stays. The takeaway – if a partnership is going to force someone out make sure there is legal basis to do so and that all conditions in the partnership agreement are satisfied/followed. A partnership needs to follow its rules.
5. A new purchase.
On the night of the moon landing, Betram Cooper, the senior partner of the firm, passes away. That same night Cutler tells Roger and Joan that he wants Don out. Roger finds a way out and arranges for the purchase of the firm by a rival. But, the firm remains a subsidiary with Roger at the helm and Don in place. A rather contentious meeting takes place amongst the partners but the deal passes through. The takeaway – Don’t underestimate Roger Sterling.
The remainder of the final season picks up sometime in 2015. It will be interesting to see how Don Draper and the rest of the firm deals with regime change. We’ll see how Roger Sterling does at the helm.