Former Trainer Files Discrimination Complaint Against University of Montana

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA — A former University of Montana strength coach has filed a complaint with the Montana Human Rights Bureau alleging his contract wasn’t renewed because of health problems and his claim that a female staff member was sexually harassed.

Scott Kirchmann filed a complaint in late March alleging school officials discriminated against him due to neck problems that required surgery. It said school officials informed him on Oct. 10 they would not renew his contract.

Just a day before they made the announcement, Kirchmann had complained that a female trainer had been subjected to derogatory, sexually explicit and demeaning jokes and remarks made by another member of the training staff.

In May, less than two weeks after the Missoulian reported someone had filed a federal sexual discrimination claim against the football program, Kirchmann amended his March complaint to allege the nonrenewal also was retaliation for the sexual harassment claim. KECI-TV was first to report the harassment complaint Tuesday.

Lucy France, special assistant to UM’s legal counsel, told KECI that the school takes reports of sexual harassment seriously and would have investigated any claims if they were reported.

“We deny the charges, and we’re confident the evidence will show the university has acted responsibly,” said Kevin McRae, associate commissioner for higher education for communications and human resources. “The first complaint says one thing, but the amended complaint says something entirely different. Whichever story he picks, we’re confident the evidence supports neither one.”

Kirchmann’s amended complaint said he emailed then-assistant athletic director Jean Gee on Oct. 9 to ask that she or someone investigate the alleged sexual harassment of a co-worker. The next day, Gee and then-athletic director Jim O’Day notified him contract would not be renewed.

No reason was given, the complaint said.

His one-year contract included a standard stipulation that the university could decide not to renew it with at least five months’ notice without giving a reason, McRae said.

Kirchmann had worked for the university since June 2008 as director of athletic performance and had received a positive review just over a month before he was told his contract would not be renewed, the complaint said.

Kirchmann said he took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act in October to have neck surgery. Two months later, his son had surgery for a heart condition.

In January, Kirchmann said he emailed his supervisors to say he was returning to work on Feb. 1, but on Jan. 31 he received a letter from Gee notifying him that he had been placed on administrative leave due to his neck condition and his son’s medical problems.

“It is clear that the university did not want Scott Kirchmann around the campus to continue to report sexual harassment,” his attorney, Stacey Weldele-Wade wrote in the amended complaint.

He was paid his salary through the end of June.

The Human Rights Bureau has 180 days to investigate a complaint. If they find it has merit, they would forward their findings to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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