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County Cleared In Sex Harassment Suit

Fri., April 14, 1995

A jury has cleared Nez Perce County of charges leveled by three former sheriff’s dispatchers in a $1 million sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit.

After an 11-day trial before 4th District Judge George Carey of Boise, the six-man, six-woman jury took less than two hours on Wednesday to return separate verdicts against the claims from Kathie L. Smith, Jannette M. Abbott and Cathy P. Rigney.

The three women, backed by the Idaho Human Rights Commission, argued that the atmosphere in the sheriff’s department was degrading and abusive to women.

They said they were subjected to sexist humor, obscene behavior and demeaning remarks, and were denied the salaries, promotions and other benefits given to male employees.

Their complaints to supervisors went unanswered, they alleged.

All three women, who resigned in 1991, claimed they suffered emotional problems from the treatment. Abbott and Rigney also said physical ailments were made worse by conditions at work.

Sheriff Ron Koeper said many of the problems the women had may have been due to the dispatch center being located in the jail.

That situation should be solved soon with the dispatch center being moved to the department’s administrative offices in another building, the sheriff said. Three female jailers will be hired.

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