A man selected by the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce as its 2010 Businessman of the Year has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a complaint alleging he routinely forced a female employee to view pornography.
A claim filed in 2009 with the Montana Human Rights Bureau and settled in March alleges that the manager of Stock Building Supply, Brent Hall, subjected Leona Dickson, a long-time employee, to sexual harassment and discrimination.
"That was the worst part for me, was the atmosphere," the 48-year-old Dickson told the Independent last week. "To me, there was no way a female could get any respect."
The business was sold in 2009 and now operates under the name Pro-Build. Hall remains the manager.
One of Dickson's primary responsibilities while working as assistant manager at the lumberyard entailed sending, receiving, and printing email for Hall. Dickson says his email regularly contained explicit pictures and videos of naked women. Despite the fact that she voiced unease about fielding pornographic email, Dickson says, Hall insisted she continue.
In 2009, after her job was reclassified and her salary was cut as part of a companywide cost-saving effort, Dickson says she was unwilling to stomach the working conditions anymore. She resigned in May 2009 and filed the complaint in June of that year.
An investigation into Dickson's allegations by the Montana Human Rights Bureau found reasonable cause to believe that misconduct occurred.
In a filing with the Human Rights Bureau, Hall admits that Dickson was exposed to pornography in the workplace. But he says she viewed it of her own accord. Hall's attorney, Sarah Simkins, of Kalispell, says her client isn't guilty of any unlawful activity. Simkins adds that he opted to settle rather than endure an expensive, drawn-out hearing. Hall and the company each have agreed to pay Dickson $25,000, without admitting to any wrongdoing.
Hall is a 71-year-old grandfather with deep roots in Kalispell. He says he's saddened by Dickson's allegations. His voice shakes as he talks about the toll Dickson's claims are taking on his family and his reputation. "This thing is killing me," he says. "It just tears my heart out."
Dickson says she wants Hall to understand why she filed the complaint: "I didn't feel like I was being looked at as a fellow employee, but as one of these bodies."