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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 08:19 GMT 09:19 UK
Friends cleared over dirty jokes
The cast of Friends
Friends was one of TV's most popular shows until it ended in 2004
Dirty jokes and sexual conversation among the writers of hit sitcom Friends did not amount to sexual harassment of an assistant, a US court has ruled.

The California Supreme Court has rejected a claim by Amaani Lyle, 32, who transcribed the writing sessions.

"Sexual antics and sexual discussions" by the show's writers were not aimed at Ms Lyle, Justice Marvin Baxter decided.

Ms Lyle's lawyer claimed women were seen as "playthings for males who want to demean them and make fun of them".

She worked on the show for four months in 1999 but was fired because she could not transcribe the discussions fast enough, according to producers.

Writers' fantasies

"I would have to listen to comments about the sexual conduct many of the writers would like to do with Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston," Ms Lyle said.

A panel of seven justices unanimously ruled that she could not sue Warner Bros Television.

Lawsuits like this one... present a clear and present danger to fundamental free speech rights
Justice Ming Chin

Justice Ming Chin said the case had more to do with the US Constitution's First Amendment right to free speech than sexual harassment.

"The First Amendment protects creativity," he wrote in the ruling.

"Lawsuits like this one, directed at restricting the creative process in a workplace whose very business is speech related, present a clear and present danger to fundamental free speech rights."

'Creative workplace'

The panel of justices said the bawdy comments were made in a "creative workplace where writers generated scripts for an adult-oriented comedy show featuring sexual themes".

But the remarks and jokes "were not aimed at plaintiff or any other female employee", Justice Marvin Baxter wrote.

"There is no dispute Friends was a situation comedy that featured young sexually active adults and sexual humour geared primarily toward adults.

"Aired episodes of the show often used sexual and anatomical language, innuendo, wordplay and physical gestures to create humour concerning sex," he wrote.

A spokesman for Warner Bros Television said: "Now we can continue doing what we do best, writing and producing hit television shows with the knowledge that our speech is protected."

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