Calif. Supreme Court to Hear ‘Friends’ Harassment Case

Jul 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to hear the case of a former “Friends” writers assistant who accused Warner Bros., the “Friends” production company and individual producers of creating a hostile work environment based on their graphic discussions of sexual situations.

Amaani Lyle was fired from the Warner Bros. Studios sitcom after fourth months on the job. Defendants in the suit claimed Ms. Lyle wasn’t a fast enough typist and had to be let go because too much work was lost. Ms. Lyle sued, saying she was subjected to sexual comments, gestures and situations, but the defendants argued in a lower court that the salty atmosphere was necessary to the creative process of a show that was inherently sexual.

A trial court agreed, but a three-judge appellate court said a jury should hear the case and decide if Ms. Lyle was subjected to a hostile work environment. Now the Supreme Court will decide if a judge or a jury should weigh in on Ms. Lyle’s work environment claim.

Adam Levin, the attorney representing Warner Bros., said he was “pleased” by the Supreme Court’s verdict. “It’s our position the creative process is protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

A number of groups and individuals agreed with Mr. Levin’s argument. Newspapers, theatres, First Amendment advocacy organizations, the MPAA, the WGA and television writers such as John Wells, Norman Lear, David Milch and Diane English all wrote to the court in support of Warner Bros.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to review the matter is gratifying to the defendant,” Mr. Levin said.