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Jury finds Butte police retaliated against detective who was fired after filing HR complaint

Posted at 6:55 PM, Feb 19, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 12:15:09-05

BUTTE — A jury in a federal civil suit ruled that Butte-Silver Bow will have to pay more than $300,000 in connection with the firing of a female detective in the Butte Police Department.

After a week of testimony, a six-member jury deliberated for about four hours on Feb. 16 and determined Butte police retaliated against Rhonda Staton for filing a human resources complaint in 2019 while she was working as a police detective. This led to her being fired in 2020. However, the jury did not find Staton was subjected to harassment and discrimination because of her gender while working for the department.

Despite the mixed verdicts, Staton’s attorney said the ruling validates his client.

“I hope it brings about change at Butte-Silver Bow County and shines a light on what has been going on there,” said Staton’s attorney Michael Rabb from Bozeman.

Staton alleged in the lawsuit she endured harassment and discrimination from male officers at the department, where she worked for 18 years. When Staton made a formal complaint, it ended up costing her job.

“Rhonda, I think, should be commended for her courage for standing up for her right to file an HR complaint,” said Rabb.

The jury, however, did not find merit in Staton’s harassment and discrimination claims.

“And I don’t think that in any way invalidates what she experienced, I just think six jurors for some reason couldn’t agree on the issue,” said Rabb.

The jury awarded Staton $175,000 for back pay, $114,000 in pay she would have received had she not been fired, and $60,000 in emotional distress.