Montana Public Radio

Former State Corrections Employee Alleges Sexual Harassment By Director In Lawsuit

Sep 24, 2019

UPDATED 6:20 P.M. 

A former employee of the Montana Department of Corrections alleges she lost her job after refusing sexual advances by the agency director. 

The lawsuit filed in Lewis and Clark District Court late last week by Adriane Cotton alleges she was approached by Director Reginald Michael in what she understood as a quid pro quo of sexual favors for career advancement.

Director Michael denies the allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation, according to Carolynn Bright Communications Director for the Montana Department of Corrections

The court filing alleges that on a drive to Billings in the fall of 2017, with just Michael and Cotton in the car, Michael told Cotton that he had “a history of subordinates requesting to engage in sexual activity with him.”

The lawsuit then says immediately after, Michael asked Cotton about her career goals and if she had an interest in the Deputy Director Position at the department, which would soon become available.

Cotton’s job as the agency’s government relations officer was cut during department restructuring last year.

The Montana Television Network reported last December that former DOC employees called the restructuring within the agency retaliation against people who questioned director Michael. That MTN report included accusations of sexual harassment.

An emailed statement from Marissa Perry, a spokesperson for Governor Steve Bullock, said the governor’s office takes allegations of sexual harassment very seriously, adding that when the allegations first game to light the an investigation was launched.

The investigation found Cotton’s complaint to be unsubstantiated. 

"The climate assessment conducted by an objective, independent, third-party evaluation team and the team's recommended restructuring of the Montana department of Corrections placed the department in a strong position to best fulfill its mission on behalf of Montana citizens," Carolynn Bright with the department said. 

Cotton has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau and is appealing its findings.