You may want to think twice next time you’re telling jokes around the water cooler. You could be sued for sexual harassment. That’s what happened to writers of the TV show "Friends." (search)

Now if you’ve ever seen "Friends," you know it deals pretty openly with the sexual life of some frisky young adults. Scriptwriters came up with ideas for the show during brainstorming sessions, at which the conversation could get pretty racy.

One woman hired as a typist for these sessions was fired because she couldn’t type fast enough. She sued, first claiming she was fired because she was black. When that failed, she tried sexual harassment, claiming the brainstorming sessions constituted the harassment.

One judge threw out the claim, saying she was fired for good cause and that the brainstorming sessions were an integral part of the workplace. But an appeals court has reinstated the claim.

The "Friends" writers must now prove to a jury that the brainstorming sessions were "not engaged in for purely personal gratification or out of meanness or bigotry or other personal motives."

Hollywood, so long a bastion of political correctness is now being stung by a new level of political correctness. As First Amendment lawyer Harvey Silvergate puts it: "Here, we glimpse the next plateau — punishing bad thoughts."

And that’s the Observer.

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