Everything You Need To Know About Amaani Lyle & The ‘Friends’ Lawsuit That Pushed Back #MeToo

Can and will Hollywood ever change? That’s been one of the many questions spearheading the #MeToo conversation. But long before the #MeToo movement, there was Amaani Lyle fighting it all by herself. Lyle recently sat down with Bustle to talk about bringing the most popular television series to court. 

At 27, Amaani Lyle was hired as a writer’s assistant for the sixth season of the popular television show “Friends” in 1999. Her job was to write down everything the team brainstormed “jokes, anecdotes, anything the writers said that might lead to a story,” Bustle reports. According to her testimony, Lyle’s supervisors Adam Chase, Gregory Malins, and Andrew Reich often made graphic sexual and racist comments. She claimed later in the legal documents that the men would often talk about the type of women they preferred, personal stories about their sex lives, and how one of the writers missed his chance to sleep with one of the shows stars. The conversation would often turn to the cast or show and veer completely off course, Lyle told Bustle. According to the court documents, they referred to a lead actress as “having dried branches in her vagina.” Lyle claims that they repeatedly brought up a fantasy about having Joey’s character enter the bathroom while one of the female characters were showering and rape her.

Lyle mentioned how she spoke up about the lack of diversity on the show and the need for a black character. She also noticed their racist jokes, often mocking “black ghetto talk.”  Lyle also claimed that comments like these were constant and continued to happen. 

Lyle mentioned how she spoke up about the lack of diversity on the show and the need for a black character. She also noticed their racist jokes, often mocking “black ghetto talk.” 

She told Bustle that this type of behavior, “was so ingrained and ubiquitous at the time that nobody thought about it. The female writers would say something, and [the male writers] would huff and puff and get mad, and then we would just move on,” she said. 

In 1999, Lyle was unexpectedly fired for “poor job performance: she typed too slowly,” Bustle reports, but she suspected her typing wasn’t the actual reason. Lyle initially brought suit to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for wrongful termination and racial discrimination, but it was dismissed. The appeals court did reinstate the harassment claims. For six years, Lyle fought this.

Chase, Malins, and Reich confirmed that Lyle’s accusations were true, but it was “necessary parts of the creative process,” Bustle Reports. 

The case was eventually brought to California Supreme Court, where they decided that the writers comments weren’t directed at her, thus her rights weren’t violated. 

“This case has very little to do with sexual harassment and very much to do with core First Amendment free-speech rights,” the court decision stated. “The writers of [“Friends”] were engaged in a creative process—writing adult comedy—when the alleged harassing conduct occurred. The First Amendment protects creativity.” 

It basically said that the right for these writer to belittle and harass women must be protected, as long as it wasn’t directed at someone. What happened to Lyle in the writer’s room wasn’t their fault, according to the statement. 

While the general public hasn’t heard much about Lyle vs. Warner Brothers, it has been used in other harassment cases and proven effective defense, according to Bustle. Lyle said that she feels her case did allow for more people to fight for their jobs, but in regards to harassment, the industry hasn’t changed. 

“At the heart of the matter, this isn’t just about harassment. It’s about diversity and inclusion, and all of those things that we didn’t take for granted. I would love to say that Hollywood has had this collective epiphany. But I think, no. It’s just—the lights are on now,” Lyle told Bustle