Lyle v. Warner Bros. Television Productions, 38 Cal. 4th 264 (2006)

Amaani Lyle was terminated after four months of working as a typist in the writers’ room of the producers of the television show “Friends.” Following her termination because she could not type (contended the producers), Lyle asserted, among other things, that she had been subjected to a hostile environment in the form of conversations among the writers about their personal sex lives, their sexual preferences and predilections, their fantasies about female cast members, as well as sexually explicit doodling and cartoons on scripts, calendars and other pieces of paper. However, Lyle admitted during her deposition that none of this activity was directed at her, no one had said anything that was sexually explicit about her and no one on the show had asked her on a date or sexually propositioned her in any way. Because Lyle had failed to establish that she was exposed to sexually explicit conduct in the workplace “because of sex” or that it had been sufficiently severe or pervasive as to alter the terms and conditions of her employment, the California Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment in favor of defendants. Cf. Carter v. California Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 38 Cal. 4th 914 (2006) (amendment to the Fair Employment and Housing Act providing for employer liability for the sexually harassing conduct of third parties (e.g., customers or clients) “merely clarified” existing law and was, therefore, to be retroactively applied).