County settles human rights bureau complaint related to Deputy Knox

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A political discrimination, age and disability complaint involving Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Knox was settled Feb. 18.

Knox filed the complaint with the Department of Labor and Industry Employment Relations Division Human Rights Bureau in 2018, Knox’s attorney David Vicevich said.

The complaint alleged former Sheriff Frank Kluesner did not allow Knox to return to work on light duty after a medical procedure, Vicevich said, and imposed physical restrictions to Knox that had never been imposed by the sheriff’s office for other employees.

The Human Rights Bureau has a process for complaints, which begin with an investigation and a ruling within 180 days; or the complaint can go to mediation, according to its website. If there is a “reasonable cause” finding on the complaint, the complaint can go to “conciliation” within 30 days. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the complaint is sent to the bureau for a formal hearing; either side can appeal the hearing officer’s decision to the Human Rights Commission.

If there is a “no reasonable cause” finding, the finding can be appealed to the Human Rights Commission within 14 days or a lawsuit can be filed in district court. If the decision is affirmed at that step, parties can also sue in district court. If the finding is overruled by the commission, it can be sent to the Hearings Bureau for a formal hearing. Either side can appeal the decision after a formal hearing.

Knox’s complaint was at the point of having a finding issued by the Human Rights Bureau, Vicevich said. The parties mediated the case before the report was finalized. Vicevich said he anticipated the bureau would have determined Kluesner failed to accommodate Knox’s temporary medical disability, though it might not have agreed with the political discrimination claims in the complaint.

The bureau will not issue a finding in the case since both sides settled the matter, Vicevich said.

Knox said it had been a long process, but he is glad his claims have been resolved and he is looking forward to continuing to serve in the sheriff’s office.

County Attorney Jed C. Fitch said he does not believe there remains any litigation related to current sheriff’s office employees against the Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office, with the settlement of Knox and Deputy Mike Miles’ claims (see related story).

Former Sheriff Frank Kluesner said he had been traveling and had not yet reviewed the settlement, and declined comment.