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Lyle v. Warner Bros. Television Prods. - 38 Cal. 4th 264, 42 Cal. Rptr. 3d 2, 132 P.3d 211 (2006)

Rule:

The prohibition against sexual harassment includes protection from a broad range of conduct, ranging from expressly or impliedly conditioning employment benefits on submission to or tolerance of unwelcome sexual advances, to the creation of a work environment that is hostile or abusive on the basis of sex. Where a plaintiff alleges that a defendant created a hostile or abusive work environment, the plaintiff need not show evidence of unwanted sexual advances.

Facts:

Plaintiff writers' assistant sued defendant comedy writers and others for, inter alia, racial and sexual harassment. Plaintiff alleged that the writers' use of sexually coarse and vulgar language and conduct, including the recounting of their own sexual experiences, constituted harassment based on sex within the meaning of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants. The appellate court reversed in part, concluding that triable issues of fact existed as to the sexual harassment cause of action. Both sides petitioned for review.

Issue:

Did the plaintiff present sufficient evidence that defendant created a hostile or abusive work environment in violation of the FEHA?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment sexual harassment in violation of the FEHA. The writers' lewd talk and gestures did not involve and was not aimed at the assistant or other women in the workplace. To the extent triable issues of fact existed as to whether certain offensive comments were made about women other than the assistant because of their sex, no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that those particular comments were sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a work environment that was hostile or abusive to the assistant.

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