‘Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions et al.’: Lawsuit Threatening Expansion of Sexual Harassment Codes
FIRE joined a large coalition in filing an amicus brief on behalf of Warner Brothers Television Productions et al., who successfully urged the California Supreme Court to unanimously reverse a state appellate court decision could have had a profoundly chilling implications for free speech. In this case, Plaintiff Amaani Lyle, who was briefly a writer's assistant for the popular sitcom Friends, alleged that the frequent sexual banter of the show's male and female writers subjected her to harassment as they discussed ideas and developed storylines and scripts. While admitting that she was not the target of any of the comments, Lyle claimed that some of the comments were generally derogatory towards women and therefore created a "hostile environment." The amicus brief, written for the national coalition by attorney Frederic D. Cohen of Horvitz & Levy LLP in Encino, California, argued that "communicative workplaces," such as writers' offices and universities, depend on free-wheeling and uninhibited dialogue and discussion to function.
- "Victory for Free Speech in Crucial ‘Lyle’ Decision," April 24, 2006: Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal included an editorial by FIRE cofounder and director Harvey Silverglate about an important legal victory for free speech. In Lyle v. Warner Brothers, the makers of the Friends television show were sued for sexual harassment by a scriptwriters’ assistant who heard bawdy banter during the comedy writers’ meetings. FIRE joined an amicus brief in Lyle, opposing the lower court’s decision to let the case go forward. Silverglate explains why the California Supreme Court’s decision that this was not sexual harassment is good news for freedom of speech, especially on our nation’s college campuses.
- "FIRE Joins Amicus Brief in ‘Friends’ Writers’ Case," February 10, 2005: Since June 2004, FIRE has been part of a national coalition urging the California Supreme Court to reverse a state appellate court decision that has profoundly chilling implications for free speech. The coalition members, including higher education as well as entertainment and advertising groups, are concerned that an adverse decision in Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions et al. would redefine a great deal of constitutionally protected expression as unprotected "harassment" and have frightening consequences for free speech on college and university campuses.
- "FIRE Joins Amicus Letter to California Supreme Court; National Coalition Opposes Chilling of Free Speech," June 17, 2004: FIRE has joined a national coalition urging the California Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that has profoundly chilling implications for free speech. The amicus letter asks the court to overturn an appellate decision which could be used on college and university campuses to redefine a great deal of constitutionally protected expression as unprotected "harassment."
- "Amicus Letter - Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions et al.," June 16, 2004: FIRE joined with the National Association of Scholars, the Center for Individual Rights, and several concerned California law professors in submitting this amicus letter to the California Supreme Court. The letter was written by attorney Frederic D. Cohen of Horvitz & Levy, LLP, in Encino, California. In Lyle, a writer's assistant for the television show "Friends" claimed that the bawdy banter of the writers on the show constituted sexual harassment even though the banter was not directed at her.
- "On Point,"
by Vincent Carroll, Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colo.), April 26, 2006
- "Among Friends,"
by Harvey Silverglate, The Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2006
- "‘Lyle’ Portends Life Without Freedom, ‘Friends,’ ‘Seinfeld’,"
by Greg Lukianoff, Daily Journal, March 10, 2005
- "What Would Rachel Say?,"
by Harvey Silverglate, Wall Street Journal, August 4, 2004
- "Top court to hear 'Friends' harassment case: Was foul language 'creative necessity'?,"
by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, July 22, 2004
- "State's high court hears from 'Friends',"
by Joyce Howard Price, Washington Times, June 22, 2004