Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions

132 P.3d 211 (Cal. 2006), aff’g in part 12 Cal. Rptr. 3d 511 (Ct. App. 2004)

Summary: In this case, Media Coalition members submitted an amicus brief highlighting the potential negative impact of a “creative necessity” test announced by the California Court of Appeals on publishers, booksellers, and librarians.

History: In response to the sexual harassment suit brought by Amaani Lyle, a writers’ assistant on the television show Friends, Warner Brothers argued in the California intermediate appellate court that creative discussions among Friends writers were not structured or orderly and that the processes included sexually explicit jokes and discussions.In its opinion, the court held that, even when not directed at complainant, speech that occurs during the creative process can support a “hostile work environment” claim unless it is protected as “necessary” to the creative process.  This means that it is decided as a matter of fact whether the sexual banter was necessary to the creative process for the writers of Friends.

On April 20, 2006, the California Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision in this case and dismissed the allegations of sexual harassment on statutory grounds.  One opinion in the majority quoted the amicus brief submitted by Media Coalition members, saying speech that is part of the creative process is protected by the First Amendment.  The amicus brief highlighted the potential impact of the “creative necessity” test announced by the California Court of Appeals on publishers, booksellers, and librarians.  The brief, filed February 4,adopted the legal reasoning of an amicus brief written on behalf of several newspaper associations.