April 20, 2006

“Friends” writers’ sex jokes not harassment: court

SAN FRANCISCO (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.

While the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits conduct
that creates a hostile or abusive workplace for women, it does
not outlaw "sexually coarse and vulgar language that merely
offends," the high court said.

The case raised questions of how far TV comedy writers can
go in pushing the boundaries of taste in their private
joke-writing sessions, with supporters of the writers and
producers arguing that Lyle's suit infringed on their freedom
of speech.

The high court declined to address the free-speech issues
raised in the case.

"We have no occasion to determine whether liability for
such language might infringe on free speech rights," the court

The show's writers claimed Lyle was fired because she was a
slow typist who often missed the jokes she was supposed to

"Friends," which was NBC's top-rated show for several
years, ended its 10-season-run in May 2004.