January 15, 1996 12:00 PM

SHE MIGHT HAVE INCLUDED FRENCH hens or a pair of turtledoves. Instead, on the third day of Christmas—Dec. 27—comedian Garry Shandling, 46, received a different sort of package from Linda Doucett, 37. The actress, Shandling’s former live-in love and a onetime regular on his HBO series The Larry Sanders Show, filed suit against him in a California state court, charging him with “sex discrimination and sexual harassment” and claiming she was fired from her role on Sanders last January because their “sexual relationship [was] a condition of [her] employment.”

There was no monetary demand mentioned, and no comment from Doucett, though the suit did make it clear that damages would be sought. Shandling’s only comment was made through his lawyers: “We are saddened by the false and outrageous charges. This matter will unfortunately be dealt with in the appropriate legal channels.”

The couple met in 1987 at a mutual friend’s birthday party. When Shandling’s show started in 1992, Doucett, who appeared occasionally on General Hospital, took on the role of the ditzy assistant Darlene. “I wanted a baby,” Doucett joked with PEOPLE in August of that year. “He gave me a job.”

Though Doucett now claims that Shandling ended the relationship, a friend of the couple’s told PEOPLE last January that Doucett left him when she “felt it was time to move on.” Ironically, Shandling portrayed their breakup as amicable. After Doucett left his show last spring, Shandling said her departure had “nothing to do with our breaking up…. We’re friends.” Clearly that has changed. On Dec. 27 an L.A. TV reporter visited Shandling’s home to ask about the suit filed by Doucett. Over the intercom the comic paused, then replied, “Can you spell it for me?”

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