2 ex-Stockman Bank employees sue alleging sex discrimination

2014-07-21T15:30:00Z 2014-07-23T09:22:08Z 2 ex-Stockman Bank employees sue alleging sex discriminationBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Two former employees of Stockman Bank’s Miles City branch office recently filed a federal lawsuit alleging sex discrimination by supervisors.

The plaintiffs, Cindy Conley, of Miles City, and Tracee Burchell, of Castle Rock, Colo., allege that during their employment they were subjected to “a pattern of unwelcome, inappropriate and offensive conduct of a sexual nature” by supervisors, including Stan Markuson, the branch president, and Jeff Flaten, vice president compliance director.

The suit alleges bank supervisors discriminated and retaliated against the women because of their sex in violation of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Montana Human Rights Act.

The complaint seeks a judgment and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Watters.

Stockman Bank’s attorney, Jeanne Bender, of Billings, said Monday that Conley and Burchell filed complaints last year with the Montana Human Rights Bureau.

The bureau investigated the allegations, found there was no reason to believe discrimination had occurred and dismissed the case, Bender said.

“I think the bank thought it was over. If we are served, we will fight it. We haven’t been served yet,” Bender said, referring to the lawsuit.

Conley’s and Burchell’s attorney, Eric Holm, of Billings, acknowledged the MHRB’s no cause finding.

“We obviously disagree,” he said.

Conley and Burchell both worked in the compliance division, Holm said.

A 16-page complaint filed on July 2 in U.S. District Court in Billings alleges Markuson made “inappropriate sexual comments and jokes” to Conley for “many years.”

In one incident, the complaint said, Markuson stood in the doorway of Conley’s office and told her “in a creepy, flirtatious manner that he would like to see her in a bikini on the beach in Jamaica, where he had just vacationed with his wife and children.”

Conley learned during her employment the “mentality of the all-male upper-management team is that inappropriate sexual and bullying behavior by male employees of the bank has been and currently is tolerated, if not endorsed or laughed at, by upper management, while female employees are required to just deal with such behavior and the consequences,” the complaint said.

The suit also alleges that Flaten made derogatory comments about Burchell to Burchell’s supervisor, Tami Harwood, in a local bar and sexually harassed other female employees with inappropriate comments and remarks.

Eventually, Conley, Burchell and Harwood reported the harassment to the bank’s human resources department. Flaten, the complaint said, was forced to apologize and attended a two-hour seminar on harassment prevention but not otherwise disciplined.

Burchell relocated to a lesser job at a Billings branch office.

Both Conley and Burchell sought medical treatment because of the bank’s actions and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and other disorders, the complaint said. Both women’s medical providers have not released them to return to work at the bank and they were forced to resign, the suit said.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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