Secretary Wins Half-Million Bucks for Having a Mental Breakdown After Being Told That “Women Take Things More Emotionally”
From the Evening Standard of the UK:
Tuesday 1 August 2017 08:24
A secretary has been awarded a £360,000 payout from her employers after her manager made a sexist remark.
A judge ruled Marion Konczak, 62, deserved “every penny” after former employers BAE Systems tried to pull back the huge sum claiming it was an “affront to justice” over “one sexist comment”.
The Court of Appeal heard how Ms Konczak suffered a mental breakdown after being told in 2007 that “women take things more emotionally than men, whilst men tend to forget things and move on.”
This reminds me of the great Friends lawsuit that reached the California Supreme Court in 2006. From the NYT:
By CHRISTOPHER NOXON NOCT. 17, 2004
… Just how horrible is no longer a source of speculation, thanks to a former writers’ assistant who was fired from the NBC sitcom “Friends.” Amaani Lyle contends that while doing her job, which was to record anything any of the writers said, she was subjected to her bosses’ dirty, personal and just plain weird banter, so much so that it constituted sexual harassment. … Ms. Lyle is African American; her original complaint included charges of racial discrimination. …
In most cases that claim a “hostile work environment,” the defense argues that the offending actions didn’t really happen, or weren’t that bad, or that they were taken out of context. The Warner Brothers lawyers, however, do not dispute that the “Friends” writers were often lewd, crude and extravagantly vulgar. The excuse was they’re comedy writers. “They were talking about sex because that’s their job,” said Adam Levin, a partner in the Los Angeles law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. “The real crime here is that these writers are being individually sued for doing their job.”…
Both sides are making big claims for what’s at stake. Studio executives say not just the way their industry works but also the First Amendment is under attack. And some legal experts fear that if what has been called the “creative necessity” defense prevails, it will give people in show business immunity from the same standards that apply at construction sites, stock brokerages and any other workplace forced in recent decades to clean up its act. “The law should not say that people in a writers’ room can refer to women in demeaning terms but no one else can,” said Joanna Grossman, who teaches sexual harassment law at Hofstra University.
… So the defendants have gone to great lengths to emphasize the smuttiness of their workplace, while the offended party is strenuously arguing how tame it was. Which is, of course, exactly the opposite of how most sexual harassment suits play out….
WITH few exceptions, situation comedies are written by large groups of predominantly young white guys — often under-socialized, smart-alecky guys for whom “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “American Pie” are sacred texts — who are cooped up together in small spaces late into the night. …
But even when they don’t end up in the scripts, the off-color jokes, writers say, are essential. Some of the cleanest shows are created in filthy rooms, said Jeff Schaffer, who works on the HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” …
In this atmosphere, almost anything is fair game. “Our negativity is almost always self-directed,” said Rob Long, who wrote for “Cheers” and developed several other sitcoms, Except, that is, when the negativity is directed at someone else….
“Writers make fun of the cast relentlessly,” Mr. Long said. “There’s a huge status difference between writers and these gigantic, internationally known megastars. The cast of ‘Friends’ is beautiful and talented and funny and they seem really nice and in fact they are really nice and they did a great show and they all got really rich — and if you’re a writer, these are the people you despise.”
Ms. Lyle’s suit said that while joking about the supposed infertility of the actress Courteney Cox, one writer described her reproductive system as “full of dried up twigs” and speculated that if she tried to have sex, “she’d break in two.” One target, however, is traditionally off-limits: writers’ assistants. “It’s immoral and beneath contempt to make fun of someone making so much less money,” Mr. Long said. “They also spend a lot of time with your lunch before you eat it, if you get my drift.”
I met Mr. Long in a previous century. He wrote National Review’s “Letter from Al” column about the Veep in the 1990s. He was somewhat disturbed that I hadn’t figured out yet that half hour shows were comedies, one hour shows were dramas.