BREAKING NEWS: Buffalo Bill Center Sued in Federal Court

BREAKING NEWS: Buffalo Bill Center Sued in Federal Court

Written by on May 5, 2021

A lawsuit alleging employment discrimination and wrongful termination has been filed against the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and several current and former employees.

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West faces more litigation in 2021. But the museum won’t be facing this lawsuit in Park County – it was filed in a federal court.

“Bonnie Smith vs. the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association” was filed in the United States District Court for the State of Wyoming on Tuesday, May 4. It names the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association and six current and former employees as defendants.

The Buffalo Bill Memorial Association is a non-profit organization that does business as the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. It manages the museums and handles all the legal business, assets, and employees.

Bonnie Smith is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Smith was terminated in March 2019, which is the main impetus behind the federal case.

The federal case alleges a history of age and gender discrimination, personal vendettas, and retaliation for reporting unethical practices to the appropriate agencies.

The following six current and former B.B.C.O.W. employees are named as defendants in the federal lawsuit:

  • Corey Anco – Assistant Curator of the Draper Natural History Museum
  • Melissa Hill – Assistant Curator of the Draper Museum Raptor Experience
  • Nathan Horton – Former lab manager and research assistant
  • Kelly Jensen – Former Development Director
  • Peter Seibert – Former Executive Director
  • Rebecca West – Current Executive Director

Peter Seibert announced his resignation as Executive Director and C.E.O. of the museums in January 2021. Rebecca West was appointed to his position in April.

Each individual has several accusations made against them. In the filing, the case states, “the (Buffalo Bill Memorial Association) terminated the Plaintiff’s employment upon allegations made by West, Anco, Horton, Jensen, and Hill.”

Five counts have been filed against the B.B.M.A. and the defendants: discrimination because of age/gender, retaliation for reporting, breach of contract, defamation of character, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A summons for each defendant was included.

Smith’s case states she reported instances of sex and age discrimination and sexual harassment (to herself and others,)  missing museum artifacts, and artifact damages to the appropriate personnel and agencies. The lawsuit alleges Smith was terminated in part as retaliation for these reports.

Another point alleges Smith’s personal photos were publicly posted within the museum after her termination. The images included warnings that Smith had been banned from the B.B.C.O.W. premises.

Smith filed another lawsuit against the B.B.C.O.W. in the Park County District Court in January 2021. That case alleges her personal property was withheld after her termination and had not been returned over two years later.

The case comes with a “Right to Sue” letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, supporting Smith’s claims.

The U.S. E.E.O.C. is a federal agency established in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to administer and enforce civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. Upon reviewing Smith’s case against the B.B.C.O.W., the organization permitted the lawsuit to be filed in federal court.

The case claims the allegations of the defendants were “fraudulent,” and their actions to remove Smith were without merit or fear of repercussion.

“All of the actions B.B.M.A., Rebecca West, Kelly Jensen, Corey Anco, Nathan Horton, Melissa Hill, and Peter Siebert were intentional and were conducted with reckless disregard of the consequences and under such circumstances and conditions that a reasonable person would know, or have reason to know, that conduct would, in a high degree of probability result in substantial harm to another.”

The Buffalo Bill Center of the West has not issued a statement, as they do not comment on pending legal matters.

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

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