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Former Butte police detective alleges discrimination, harassment in civil trial

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Posted at 8:40 PM, Feb 12, 2024

BUTTE — A civil trial is underway at the federal courthouse in Butte involving a former Butte police detective who claims she was discriminated against for her gender and faced sexual and professional harassment from the predominately male police department.

Rhonda Staton is seeking undisclosed monetary damages from Butte-Silver Bow, alleging years of gender and disability discrimination and harassment from members of the law enforcement department.

During opening statements, Staton’s attorney Michael Rabb alleged Staton endured inappropriate sexual comments, including finding tampons in her work mailbox.

The lawsuit claims she faced retaliation from within the department when she reported the incidents to human resources. She was fired in August of 2020 after 18 years of service with the department.

The attorney representing the department and Sheriff Ed Lester, Cindy Walker, countered in her opening statement to the jury of four women and three men that Staton was released due to poor performance issues in the last few years of work. The defense claims Staton was psychologically unfit for duty and neglected some of her ongoing cases while working as a detective.

In 2021, an arbitrator ruled that Staton’s termination was in violation of the agreement between the city and the Butte Police Protective Association. The county is challenging that ruling in Butte District Court.

Testimony in the civil trial is expected to continue through Friday.