The man who claims a Spokane mining firm fired him after he complained about a pattern of sexual harassment was described by company officials Tuesday as hostile to women.
Supervisors for N.A. Degerstrom Inc., testified that Matthew Failing became abusive to women and other co-workers after he and his wife began divorce proceedings in 1991.
Failing was fired three years later. Now he’s suing company president Neal Degerstrom and the firm, seeking damages for wrongful termination.
Failing and attorney Greg Staeheli argue that Degerstrom, 72, set the tone for discrimination and harassment by maintaining a sleazy den in the basement of his Valley headquarters.
In testimony Tuesday morning, Degerstrom acknowledged using the basement since 1974 to take pictures of naked and semi-clad women, including some employees.
He also admitted hiring women to work as topless barmaids for company parties in the basement.
To counter Failing’s charges, former Degerstrom safety manager Eugene Friend and current operations vice president Armand Hansen testified that they saw Failing acting hostile to women - even writing a threatening note to a female co-worker before he was fired.
As assistant safety director, Failing was one of two people in the 350-person firm designated to respond to workers’ sexual harassment complaints.
Staeheli told jurors that Degerstrom’s passion for nude photography - and favoritism toward workers who posed as models - led to Failing’s firing.
Failing complained to his superiors about Degerstrom’s practices and its effect on office morale.
Degerstrom’s attorneys, Bob Dunn and Keller Allen, insist the lawsuit is nothing more than an angry man’s effort to get even with his ex-wife, Bridget Anderson.
Anderson works at the office and once posed for Degerstrom.
Testimony is expected to conclude later this week.