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Former lifeguard alleges unjust firing, seeks four years of back pay

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POLSON — A Polson-area woman has filed a complaint with the 20th Judicial District Court in Polson seeking four years of lost wages and benefits based on alleged wrongful discharge from her job at the Mission Valley Aquatics Center. 

In the complaint, DV 17-50, Tristen Flagen said she started working for the MVAC as a lifeguard in April 2013 and was promoted to head lifeguard shortly thereafter. 

Flagen said she received permission from then-MVAC Director Ali Bronsdon to attend a certified pool operator training course in early February 2016. Flagen said she paid for and attended the course on Feb. 22-23 that year, but was fired on Feb. 23, 2016 for allegedly being absent from work. 

Flagen’s complaint states that her firing violated the state’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act because it was not for “good cause.”

Flagen, who is represented by the MSJohnson law firm of Missoula, is also pursuing claims against MVAC for violation of the Montana Human Rights Act and federal Civil Rights Act. A hearing in regard to those claims was held in the large conference room of the Lake County Courthouse three days last week before Montana Department of Labor and Industry hearings officer Chad Vanisko.

A source who did not want to be identified said that latter claims involved sexual harassment. 

MVAC was represented by the Marra Evenson & Bell law firm of Great Falls in last week’s hearing. Attorneys from that firm said that Vanisko’s pending decision likely will be appealed to the Montana Human Rights Commission by whichever side loses, and that the commission’s decision would then likely be appealed to district court. 

Lake County’s deputy attorney Brendan McQuillan, who typically prosecutes sex crimes, said the state does not have a crime against sexual harassment so any such alleged incidents could be pursued through civil court actions. 

(Editor’s note: The Valley Journal will follow up on this story in the coming months.) 


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