Workplace Creativity

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Yesterday the California Supreme Court ruled against Amaani Lyle in her hostile work environment sexual harassment suit against Warner Brothers. From Reuters:

Sexually explicit jokes and off-color language by writers of the hit TV comedy series “Friends” did not create a hostile work environment, the California Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

The ruling by the state’s high court upheld a lower court decision throwing out the sexual harassment claim brought by former writer’s assistant Amaani Lyle against writers and producers of the NBC sitcom.

Because “Friends” was an “adult-oriented comedy show featuring sexual themes,” Lyle should have expected coarse language from writers producing jokes and scripts for the show, the Supreme Court held in its ruling.

And what kind of “coarse language” did Lyle have to expect? According to the written opinion, Friends writers discussed their preferences for blondes with large breasts, their love for young girls and cheerleaders, and their oral and anal sex experiences. One had a coloring book depicting cheerleaders with their legs spread, that he would draw breasts and vaginas on during meetings. One writer described a fantasy of Joey raping Rachel in the shower. The writers made masturbatory gestures, described what they would like to do sexually to the female Friends characters, bragged that they could have fucked the actual actresses, and joked about the infertility of one actress, stating that she had dried twigs in her vagina. You really need to read the opinion, especially some of the footnotes, to get the full effect.

Lyle didn’t have many supporters. One person who wrote in her favor was Catharine MacKinnon. Her suit was seen by many as an unprincipled attack on both the First Amendment and the “creative process.” A concurrence by Judge Ming (see opinion at page 37) explained that if they couldn’t have sexually explicit discussions, the writers would have been unable to do their “best work.”

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