Lawyer has won similar lawsuits

By Melissa WawzyskoBy MELISSA WAWZYSKO, Times Herald

REPRESENTATION: Joshua Friedman announces a lawsuit against Port Huron Northern High School and district officials alleging they failed to protect the children of 12 parents from racial harassment and intimidation.
The lawyer representing parents of 12 children who Tuesday announced they had filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a host of Port Huron school officials successfully helped 26 Virginia workers gain a $4 million settlement against their employer.

However, one Michigan lawyer said it is difficult for anyone to gain large sums of money from school districts through a discrimination lawsuit.

Parents contacted New York lawyer Joshua Friedman to represent them in their lawsuit, which contends Port Huron Northern and district officials did not take appropriate action to protect their children from racial insults, threats of violence and other forms of intimidation at the high school. School officials have denied the claims, saying they investigated and are addressing reports of racism at the school.

A Web search for Friedman resulted in multiple listings for sexual-harassment services in New York, Georgia, Ohio, Florida and other areas. His Web site, www.joshuafriedmanesq .com, also advertises representation for a variety of school and workplace harassment litigation, as well as racial, age, disability, pregnancy and sex discrimination.

In the Virginia case, Friedman represented 26 workers who in 2005 won one of the state's largest employer-discrimination lawsuits against truck manufacturer Liebherr-America.

Liebherr-America settled out of court for $4 million.

Virginia civil-rights advocate Andrew Shannon said employees contended the Newport News company allowed white workers to discriminate against black co-workers and promoted whites at a higher rate than equally-qualified black workers.

Shannon's chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference directed the workers to Friedman.

"The case was very significant because it is the largest discrimination case in the private sector that occurred in Virginia over the course of several years," Shannon said. "I don't know any case that has been larger than that case."

Bloomfield Hills lawyer Dennis Pollard, who regularly represents Michigan schools, said large monetary judgments resulting from discrimination lawsuits are not common. He said plaintiffs must prove school districts knew of discrimination and intentionally allowed it to continue.

"The plaintiffs will have to show that (the district) intentionally discriminated, which means they knew what was happening and either promoted it or were totally indifferent," he said.

Contact Molly Montag at (810) 989-6275 or mmontag@gannett.com