Civil Rights Struggle in the Press and Courts

Friedman & Houlding LLP has a multi-disciplinary approach to civil rights advocacy. We believe civil rights have never been won solely or even primarily in court. Public struggle is protected activity under civil rights statutes and the First Amendment, and the press coverage of employer NY Post 7-15-13 McQueen Ibela.pngdiscrimination may serve as the modern-day equivalent of the sit-in or other demonstration. Employers often view the threat of a jury verdict, or the cost of a settlement, as a cost of doing business (often covered by insurance), and fail to correct the problem that caused the lawsuit. That is why our firm always issues a press release when we file a case, which usually results in newspaper and/or television coverage.

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Our firm will not agree to keep confidential evidence of discrimination obtained in the lawsuit. In Anderson v. Children’s Dentistry of Wichita, 6:12-cv-01225 (D. Ks Jan. 8, 2013), defendant sought a court order prohibiting plaintiff from publicizing material obtained from defendant in the lawsuit. Friedman & Houlding LLP argued that as “a result of media reporting on the case to date, eight [witnesses] have contacted Plaintiff’s counsel with information concerning differential treatment of [minorities]. . . . Documents relating to [racial and sexual] harassment or discrimination go to the heart of the allegations in this civil rights case, and have clear implications for . . . the public at large, not solely for the Plaintiff.” The court denied the motion, reasoning that:

Defendants suggest that plaintiff may disclose information about employee complaints to the media and suggest that plaintiff’s motivation in doing so is to harass other employees who have not joined plaintiff in this suit. Defendants, however, have failed to come forward with any evidence and have set forth only a few vague details about why they believe plaintiff’s motives are improper.

If an employer has been receiving harassment complaints about the same harasser for years, those complaints can now be obtained through a lawsuit, and turned over to the press. The employer must consider the public’s right to know, as well as the positive impact disclosure may have on those who are working at the employer and experiencing discrimination.

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