The case concerns Amaani Lyle, 32, whose sexual harassment lawsuit has landed before the California Supreme Court. Lyle alleges the raw sexual remarks that peppered work sessions and conversations added up to harassment against women. …If the trial is allowed to proceed, the issue to be argued is whether the lewd conduct of comedy writers is "within the scope of necessary job performance and not engaged in for purely personal gratification or out of meanness or bigotry or other personal motives." When the appeals court put it in these terms, it seems to put the Supreme Court on the spot. That decision is the sort of decision that juries are asked to make, i.e., a matter of fact. So my guess is that the Supreme Court will let the trial go on. Then we will be back at the starting point.
Levin [attorney for Warner Brothers, producer of Friends] is asking the justices to reverse an appeals court that said jurors should hear Lyle's case. …
The appeals court, in allowing the case to go to a jury, said the creative process was protected speech, but added that Lyle has a right to try to prove that the vulgarities strayed beyond that creative process.
'To the extent defendants can establish the recounting of sexual exploits, real and imagined, the making of lewd gestures and the displaying of crude pictures denigrating women was within the scope of necessary job performance and not engaged in for purely personal gratification or out of meanness or bigotry or other personal motives,' the appeals court wrote in 2004, 'defendants may be able to show their conduct should not be viewed as harassment.'
The Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center in San Francisco told the court in briefs it sides with Lyle, saying harassment laws are not automatically voided in a television studio.
The Los Angeles Times and the American Society of Newspaper Editors warned of a chilling effect on the exchange of ideas and information if Lyle wins.
My guess then is that the defendants will be able to make a case that the writers' lewdness is a normal (but necessary?) part of the creative process and that the writers harbor no ill will toward women. It will then be interesting to see what the jury does (assuming there is a trial) and whether that decision is appealed. We will probably hear more of this case.