Labor and Employment Law Overview: Montana

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law prohibits an employer from discriminating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Montana permits, within specified limits, criminal background checks and drug and alcohol testing for job applicants. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • Most employees in Montana must be paid a statutory minimum wage and be paid overtime. See Wage and Hour.
  • Montana law specifies how often employees must be paid and has requirements for pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Employees in Montana are entitled to certain leaves of absence including maternity leave, crime victim leave, military leave and civic duty leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Montana law prohibits smoking in workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • Montana law generally protects an employee who has been employed for at least six months from being terminated for other than good cause. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Montana

Montana is generally considered an employee-friendly state.

Select Montana employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Montana requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Montana Human Rights Act

The Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of protected characteristics including:

  • Race;
  • Creed;
  • Religion;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Physical or mental disability;
  • Marital status; and
  • Sex.

Under the MHRA, harassment is a form of illegal discrimination when based on an employee's race, sex, disability or other protected characteristic. Harassment can consist of a hostile environment at the workplace. It may also take the form of quid pro quo harassment, where an employee is pressured to accept unwelcome advances.

The MHRA also prohibits retaliation against a person for opposing illegal discrimination, filing a complaint or participating in an investigation of illegal discrimination.

Wage Discrimination

Under Montana law, an employer must provide equal pay for equal work. The law prohibits an employer from paying women less than men for equivalent service or for the same amount or class of work or labor in the same industry, school, establishment, office or place of employment.

Whistleblower Protection

The Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act prohibits an employer from terminating an employee in retaliation for the employee's refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Montana can be found in the Montana Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Montana, EEO - Discrimination: Montana, EEO - Harassment: Montana, EEO - Retaliation: Montana, Montana Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Montana requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Background Checks

An employer in Montana may inquire into a job applicant's criminal conviction history, but should not inquire into the applicant's arrest history.

Certain job applicants must submit to background checks as a condition of employment, such as individuals seeking positions with:

  • Educational institutions;
  • Childcare facilities;
  • Youth detention facilities;
  • Youth participatory programs;
  • Facilities involved in the care of elderly and the physically or mentally disabled;
  • Certain financial lending positions;
  • Drug treatment facilities;
  • Certain horse racing and wagering positions;
  • Certified veterinary euthanasia technicians; and
  • Medical marijuana providers.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

The Workforce Drug and Alcohol Testing Act allows drug and alcohol testing of employees who have safety, security or fiduciary duties, or who work in hazardous work environments.

An employer may only test in accordance with a qualified testing program.

AIDS/HIV Testing

A Montana employer may not require job applicants to take preemployment tests for AIDS or HIV infection without obtaining their informed consent, and must keep the identity of anyone being tested confidential.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Montana can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Montana and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Montana requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Montana's current minimum wage for nonexempt employees is $8.05 per hour. The minimum wage is calculated annually based on inflation statistics and may be more than the current federal minimum wage in any given year.

For businesses whose gross sales receipts are less than $110,000 per year, the Montana minimum wage for nonexempt employees is $4.00 per hour and does not change year to year. An employer that meets this requirement and is not covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act may pay this lesser wage.

Overtime

Employees who work in excess of 40 hours in a workweek generally must receive overtime compensation at a rate of one-and-one-half times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. With certain exceptions, if an employee works part of the workweek in nonexempt employment and part in other employment, the employee should receive overtime pay for all hours worked in that work week regardless of the differing employments.

Break Periods

An employer in Montana is not required to provide meal or rest breaks. If an employer provides a rest break of less than 30 minutes, the time must be counted toward hours worked. Additionally, if a meal break is provided, it must be counted toward hours worked unless it is 30 minutes or longer and the employee is completely relieved of duty.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Montana restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, and minors 16 and 17 years of age are prohibited from working in a variety of other occupations such as manufacturing explosives and mining. Child labor laws also list many occupations in which minors are actively permitted to engage, such as office and clerical work.

Minors who are 14 or 15 years of age generally may not work:

  • During school hours;
  • Before 7:00 a.m.;
  • After 7:00 p.m. during the school year;
  • After 9:00 p.m. outside the school year (June 1 through Labor Day, depending on local standards);
  • More than three hours on a school day;
  • More than eight hours on a nonschool day;
  • More than 18 hours in a school week; or
  • More than 40 hours in a nonschool week.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Montana can be found in Minimum Wage: Montana, Overtime: Montana, Child Labor: Montana and Montana Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Montana requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Pay Frequency

An employer in Montana must pay employees on regularly scheduled paydays established in advance. If an employer fails to establish a regular pay period, a semimonthly pay period will be presumed. Additionally, an employer must notify employees of:

  • Their rate of pay;
  • The pay period; and
  • The dates of paydays.

Such notification must be provided in writing to each employee or by posting notice in a conspicuous place.

Pay Statements

An employer must provide employees with itemized pay statements when wages are paid. The statement must show all deductions for the pay period. A statement must be provided even if no deductions were made.

Wage Deductions

In general, an employer may make deductions from wages only when required to do so by law, such as for federal and state taxes, Social Security or a garnishment order, or when the employee has authorized in writing a deduction for his or her benefit.

An employer may not withhold wages or make an employee pay for damages, mistakes or shortages.

Health Care Continuation

Montana's health care continuation law applies only to members of the Montana National Guard.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefit practices in Montana can be found in Payment of Wages: Montana, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Montana and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Montana. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Montana requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Maternity Leave

An employer in Montana must provide a reasonable leave of absence for pregnancy. If the employer and the employee cannot agree on what a reasonable period of time for the leave is, the employer should rely on the judgment of the employee's physician or other medical provider who has actually examined the employee.

An employer in Montana may not:

  • Terminate a woman's employment because of her pregnancy;
  • Refuse to grant the employee a reasonable leave of absence for the pregnancy;
  • Deny an employee who is disabled as a result of pregnancy any compensation to which she is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued under employer-maintained plans; or
  • Require that an employee take a mandatory maternity leave for an unreasonable length of time.

In addition to the state's maternity leave law, a Montana employer is also required to comply with other leave laws, such as:

  • Crime victim leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Civic duty leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Montana can be found in the Montana Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Other Leaves: Montana and USERRA: Montana. Federal requirements can be found in Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

The Montana Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking or carrying a lighted tobacco product in any enclosed public place, which includes any indoor area, room or vehicle that serves as a workplace. Applicable employers must post the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act poster in a conspicuous place at all public entrances.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Montana can be found in the Montana Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Employee Health: Montana, Montana Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Employee Health: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Montana requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act

The Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act (WDEA) generally protects an employee who has been employed for at least six months from being terminated for other than good cause. Good cause refers to legitimate business reasons or poor performance on the part of the employee that is not caused by the employer's failure to train or supervise.

A discharge is considered wrongful if:

  • It was in retaliation for the employee's refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy, i.e., whistleblowing;
  • It was not for good cause and the employee has completed the employer's probationary period of employment; or
  • The employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy.

Termination Pay

When an employer is required to pay final wages depends on whether the termination is voluntary or involuntary.

Employees who voluntary leave the organization must be paid final wages by the next scheduled payday or 15 days from the date of separation.

Employees who are laid off or terminated must be paid final wages immediately, unless the employer has a written policy that extends the time for payment to the earlier of the next payday, or within 15 days from the date of separation.

Additionally, a Montana employer is not required to provide vacation to employees, but if it does, earned vacation is considered wages and must be included in an employee's final pay.

References

Montana does not provide immunity to employers who provide information about an employee to a prospective employer. While a Montana employer is not required to provide job references, an employer who does provide references may only provide truthful statements regarding the reasons for an employee's separation from employment.

Upon request and within a reasonable time after discharge from service, an employer is required to provide an employee with a written statement of the reasons for discharge. An employer that does not provide this statement man not provide any reference or reasons for discharge to anyone else.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Montana can be found in Employment At-Will: Montana, Payment of Wages: Montana and Performance Appraisals: Montana. Federal requirements can be found in Employment At-Will: Federal, Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.