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Former corrections employee files sexual harassment lawsuit

HELENA (AP) — A former employee of Montana's Department of Corrections has filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually harassed by the agency's director. 

The lawsuit filed Friday by Adrianne Cotton also alleges her job was eliminated in retaliation for talking about the harassment during a human resources investigation.

It says that while driving to Billings in September 2017, Director Reginald Michael told Cotton he had a history of "subordinates requesting to engage in sexual activity with him." Soon after, he asked about her interest in the deputy director position.

"Ms. Cotton understood Director Michael to be suggesting a quid pro quo of sexual favors for career advancement," the lawsuit says.

A state human resources investigation found her complaint to be unsubstantiated.

Cotton also filed a complaint with the Human Rights Bureau and appealed its findings. Lee Newspapers of Montana reports a hearings officer heard the case but has not issued an order.

The Department of Corrections issued a statement Tuesday saying an independent, third-party review team recommended restructuring that "placed the department in a strong position to best fulfill its mission on behalf of Montana citizens."

The statement also said Michael denies the allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Cotton began working for the agency in 2011 and was its government relations officer when her job was among several eliminated in November 2018 as part of a restructuring.

Gov. Steve Bullock appointed Michael as the agency's director in April 2017. Michael had worked for the federal Office of Probation and Pretrial Services since June 1987.

He declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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