The Montana Department of Justice has resolved a discrimination complaint against an attorney who, according to the Montana Human Rights Office, was wrongly passed over for a promotion because of political views he expressed in an essay required as part of an application.
The Montana Department of Justice agreed to several different terms to resolve the complaint or face a potential lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the DOJ agreed to pay Andres Haladay $37,000, $20,000 plus $17,000 for emotional distress charges. The arbitration agreement also states that the Justice Department, headed by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, has agreed to the settlement but does not admit any wrongdoing in the case.
Haladay told the Daily Montanan that he was pleased with the settlement and pleased that the essay requirement had been removed from every Justice Department job posting.
The Montana Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment.
Haladay had filed a complaint with Montana’s Human Rights Office, alleging that he was discriminated against when he applied for a senior position at the Justice Department. An investigator found that a personnel committee had recommended Haladay as the lead candidate, but the late Assistant Attorney General Kris Hansen overruled the committee, likely because Haladay’s political views did not align with those of the government.
In addition to the settlement, the Montana Department of Justice agreed to comply with the state’s statutory antidiscrimination process. The parties agreed that the agency’s human resources department will review three videos on the Human Rights Office’s YouTube channel: What is the Human Rights Office? Discrimination 101: The Basics; and Montana’s Government Code of Fair Practices.
The agreement was signed by Will Selph, chief of staff at the Montana Department of Justice.
An essay and experience
Haladay applied for the position of head of the agency’s Legal Services Bureau in November 2021 and was asked to submit a cover letter, resume and essay “relating to the government’s responsibility to the people of Montana.”
According to the Human Rights Bureau investigator, the essay reflected Haladay’s personal political beliefs “that could be broadly construed as liberal or progressive.” Haladay is also a former member of the Helena City Commission and told the bureau his political beliefs were likely well known in the community.
According to the Daily Montanan’s written report, the investigator noted, “Although Haladay was aware that his personal beliefs were at odds with those of the current DOJ administration, Haladay felt that he should answer the essay honestly. As a result, Haladay’s essay discussed his opinion on (the) role of government in relation to issues such as abortion, climate change and other issues of political discourse.”
Haladay has also worked for the State of Montana as the Assistant Chief Counsel for the Montana Department of Corrections. He has been a lawyer for more than a decade.