Friday, April 21, 2006

CA Supremes: If Hollywood can’t be vulgar and boorish it will loose its creativity
Court Rejects 'Friends' Trash Talk Case

SAN FRANCISCO - Sometimes vulgarity is not just acceptable but necessary in the workplace, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday as it threw out a sexual harassment case by a former assistant on the "Friends" TV show.

The justices, ruling 7-0, agreed with Warner Bros. Television Productions that trash talk was part of the creative process and, therefore, the studio and its writers could not be sued for raunchy writers' meetings.

No jury would believe the writers' assistant was the target of harassment during profanity-laced script sessions "for an adult-oriented comic show featuring sexual themes," Justice Marvin Baxter wrote.

"Most of the sexually coarse and vulgar language at issue did not involve and was not aimed at plaintiff or other women in the workplace," Baxter wrote…

[Amaani ]Lyle said she was offended by repeated references to the actors' sex lives and to the writers' own sexual exploits as they penned the successful NBC sitcom rife with bawdy banter about six New York City friends.

She was fired after four months on the job, allegedly because she could not transcribe meetings fast enough or capture the flavor of the meetings…

"There was absolutely no evidence to link any of the conduct at issue with anything that occurred on the show," said [Jeffrey Winikow — an attorney for the California Employment Lawyers Association].

Warner Bros. acknowledged that some of the sexually explicit talk took place but said it was vital to the show's chemistry. The justices noted that Lyle had been warned when she was hired that explicit discussions were part of developing the sexually charged comedy.

Still, the court added that the same dialogue and behavior might be illegal elsewhere.

Adam Levin, an attorney for Warner Bros. who argued the case before the justices in February, said the decision was a boon for Hollywood and other fields that thrive on creativity…

Los Angeles employment law attorney Anthony Onicidi speculated that a ruling in favor of the former assistant have made it virtually impossible to produce TV programs or other creative works…

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