- Associated Press - Friday, June 27, 2014

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Missoula County sheriff’s deputy is suing the county alleging she was discriminated against by officers investigating the fact that she and a married officer kissed at her residence while the married officer was on duty and failed to respond to a 911 call.

Deputy Rebecca Birket first complained to the Montana Human Rights Bureau, alleging internal investigators kept pressing her for more details about the kiss, which she said violated her right to privacy. County officials responded that they believed she had lied to investigators because her statements and those of the unidentified married officer appeared rehearsed and offered minimal information.

The Missoulian reports (https://bit.ly/1iNrRjp ) that the bureau ruled in favor of the sheriff’s department on Wednesday, saying Birket and the married officer - identified in documents as John Doe - underwent the same interview process and received the same two-shift suspension without pay for violating the department’s “relationships with married persons policy.”

Doe was penalized 12 shifts for other violations.

Birket’s lawsuit was filed Thursday, alleging she was discriminated against because of her sex and marital status. It seeks compensation for emotional distress, shame and humiliation, costs and attorney’s fees.

Birket said she invited the married officer to her house on June 26, 2013, during a meal break and that they kissed. When questioned further, she said they made out for about five minutes, the county responded.

The sheriff’s department said Doe was at Birket’s house after already haven taken a meal break and failed to respond to a 911 call and to a radio communication regarding a traffic stop while he was there. The review board also found that Birket and Doe deleted numerous texts from their cellphones.

Birket’s lawsuit said the review board’s insistence on more details about her encounter with Doe would not offer any further proof that they broke policy and served only to embarrass her.

After its investigation, the sheriff’s review board suggested that Doe and Birket, who was still on probation, be fired. The county human resources staff reviewed the case and warned the sheriff’s office that the policy was probably unenforceable and the evidence did not support disciplinary action.

County commissioners eventually rescinded Birket’s two-shift suspension and removed references to the investigation from her personnel file.

“Based on my investigation, I find no reasonable cause to believe unlawful discrimination occurred as alleged in Rebecca Birket’s complaint,” Montana Human Rights Bureau investigator Tam Newby wrote.

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Information from: Missoulian, https://www.missoulian.com

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