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Polson Aquatic Center Ordered To Pay $60,000 Over Workplace Harassment Case

Woman swimming. Stock photo.
Woman swimming. Stock photo.

A public pool in Polson has been ordered to pay a former employee nearly $60,000 and develop new policies for identifying and resolving discrimination complaints in response to a case heard last year.

Tristen Flagen filed a complaint with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry in 2016, claiming two of her coworkers at Mission Valley Aquatic Center in Polson sexually harassed her at work repeatedly and aggressively, and that she was fired after she tried to bring it up with her superiors.

Last Thursday, a hearings officer with the department found the nonprofit Aquatic Center violated the Montana Human Rights Act by ignoring Flagen’s attempts to report a hostile work environment and forgoing an investigation, and then later terminating her.

Alicia Arant represents Flagen in the case.

"This case really examines, not only what an employer knows, but also what an employer should know. The liability in this case sort of hinges on the pool's failure to exercise reasonable care in monitoring the workplace and investigating complaints after they were made," she says.

The Department of Labor and Industry ordered the pool to pay Flagen more than $9,000 to cover the cost of two years’ worth of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and $50,000 for emotional distress.

The pool must also work with an attorney with expertise in human rights law to develop and implement policies to identify, investigate and resolve discrimination complaints, including training staff how to report complaints.

The policy must be approved by the Montana Human Rights Bureau and include training for the pool’s board members, managers and supervisors to prevent and timely address sexual discrimination on the job.

The pool has two weeks to file an appeal. Neither pool administrators nor their legal counsel returned calls for comment by deadline.

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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