HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A state hearings officer has awarded $75,000 in damages for emotional distress to a dean at Montana State University-Northern who said he was retaliated against after he told the former provost to stop touching him and filed a sexual harassment complaint.
Terry Spear, with the Office of Administrative Hearings in the state Department of Labor and Industry, rejected the claim by Randy Bachmeier that he had been sexually harassed by Provost Rosalyn Templeton, the Havre Daily News reported.
But Spear said a reprimand Bachmeier received a day later was retaliatory as were efforts by Chancellor James Limbaugh to make it clear to Bachmeier and members of the search committee that Bachmeier was not qualified to apply for the provost's job after Templeton resigned because he was not a full professor.
"We were obviously very pleased with the hearing officer's decision to the retaliation claim," said John Heenan, one of Bachmeier's attorneys. "I think the hearing officer got it wrong about the harassment claim. If the genders were reversed and a male supervisor was rubbing the neck, back and arms of female subordinate employees, no one would call it anything but harassment."
Spear's ruling, issued Wednesday, also orders MSU-Northern not to retaliate against any employee who files a sexual harassment complaint, as long as the complaint isn't frivolous.
Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner of higher education for the Montana University System, said Thursday the university system agrees with the hearing officer's findings that Bachmeier's claims of harassment were unsubstantiated or false.
"We also agree with the hearing officer's finding that Randy is not qualified to be the provost of Northern," McRae said. "We respectfully disagree with the finding that it was retaliatory to let it be known that Randy was not qualified when he applied unsuccessfully for the provost position."
He said he believed the $75,000 award was a bit much "for emotional distress caused by learning he was not qualified for a job," McRae said.
Spear ruled against Bachmeier's sexual harassment complaint, saying that the behavior stopped as soon as he told Templeton to stop touching him.
Both sides have 14 days to appeal.
Information from: Havre Daily News, http://www.havredailynews.com
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