Attorneys spar over class action status in Title IX suit against UM

Attorneys sparred in federal court on Monday over a sex-based discrimination lawsuit against the University of Montana involving more than 70 current and former employees alleging the university fostered a hostile workplace environment for women.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris has not yet decided if the plaintiffs will be granted class-action status in their suit against UM and the Montana University System, the focus of Monday’s hearing.

“We just hope for the opportunity to advocate for as many women as possible,” said Hillary Carls, of Blackford Carls P.C. of Bozeman, after Monday’s hearing.

Catherine Cole, Barbara Koostra, Mary-Ann Sontag Bowman and Rhondie Voorhees filed the federal lawsuit last August describing treatment from the university they say is part of a “good ol’ boys’ club.” They specifically claimed UM President Seth Bodnar created a campus environment adverse to women.

The plaintiffs’ legal team requested class certification after 18 more women came forward with similar allegations of gender discrimination and harassment. Carls said attorneys identified more than 70 other current or former female UM employees as eligible class-action members.

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Morris asked Carls what factual evidence their team has to establish a culture of

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