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Free Speech Case Can Be Title VII Lesson for Employers

A university is supposed to be a marketplace of free ideas. But Christian DeJohn, a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia, said the university's sexual harassment policy violated his free speech rights--and the
3rd Circuit agreed. In a decision free speech advocates are hailing, the appeals court found that Temple's former policy was overbroad and prohibited speech that the First Amendment protects.

Temple's policy stated that "all forms of sexual harassment are prohibited, including ... expressive, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual or gender-motivated nature when ... such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work, educational performance, or status, or such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment."

In Lyle v. Warner Brothers Television Productions, a writer's assistant on the television show Friends filed a sexual harassment claim against Warner Brothers and the show's writers based on sexually explicit language the writers used while writing the show, even though the statements were not directed at her.

The California Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the plaintiff failed to make a prima facie case that the Friends'
writers' sexual banter created a hostile work environment and added that any liability in this case would have violated the First Amendment rights of the defendants, who were involved in the creative process of creating protected speech.

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Yesenia Salcedo

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