- Associated Press - Thursday, March 5, 2015

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Missoula County has settled a lawsuit filed by a sheriff’s deputy who said she was discriminated against when she was repeatedly questioned about a kiss she shared with a married deputy at her residence during a time when he failed to respond to a 911 call.

Sheriff T.J. McDermott said Wednesday that the county will pay Deputy Rebecca Birket $60,000 to settle the case.

“This is a new chapter for the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff T.J. McDermott said. “It’s not only about doing the right thing, but it’s about being accountable and doing the right thing when harm is done to an employee.”

The alleged discrimination occurred in 2013, when Carl Ibsen was sheriff.

Birket filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau in 2014, but the bureau ruled in favor of the sheriff’s office, finding that both Birket and the unnamed deputy underwent the same interview process and received the same punishment. She then filed a civil lawsuit seeking damages for privacy violations and humiliation she said she suffered because the review board insisted on more details about her encounter with the married deputy, even though it would not offer any further proof that they broke department policy against relationships with married persons.

The Birket settlement follows another last year involving the treatment of employees during Ibsen’s tenure.

In February 2014, county commissioners approved $60,000 settlements for both McDermott and now Undersheriff Jason Johnson. They alleged Ibsen discriminated against them when McDermott announced plans to run for sheriff.

“My job as sheriff is not just to provide leadership and a new direction, but also lay out the expectations of how we are going to treat each other,” McDermott said.

As part of the settlement, McDermott said the department will provide training on the right to privacy, gender discrimination and marital status discrimination.

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