EEO - Discrimination: Montana
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Jason Ritchie, William Dabney, Holland & Hart LLP
- Similar to federal law under Title VII, the Montana Human Rights Act (MHRA) makes discrimination illegal in all aspects of employment. Protected characteristics under the MHRA include race, sex, creed, religion, color, national origin (including ancestry), age, physical or mental disability, marital status and pregnancy/maternity. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act.
- Public employers may not discriminate based on political beliefs, and the State of Montana may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and additional categories. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act; Public Employers.
- Covered employers under the MHRA include private and public employers with at least one employee, and any agent of the employer. Fraternal, charitable or religious entities are specifically excluded from the definition employer in most cases. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act; Covered Employers.
- Under the MHRA, an employer may not refuse employment or otherwise discriminate against employees or applicants regarding compensation or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment such as benefits, discipline, promotion and termination. Certain discriminatory preemployment inquiries regarding protected traits are also prohibited. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act; Unlawful Employment Practices.
- It is not a violation of the MHRA to base an otherwise-discriminatory work rule or employment action on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) with respect to an employee's age, physical or mental disability, marital status or sex. A BFOQ may not be applied based on an employee's race, creed, color, religion or national origin (ancestry). See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act; Unlawful Employment Practices.
- The MHRA generally protects qualified individuals with a physical or mental disability. Subject to some exceptions, an employer is required to offer a reasonable accommodation so that a qualified individual with a disability may perform the essential functions of a position. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act; Disability Discrimination.
- An employer is not required to offer an accommodation if it would cause an undue hardship, or endanger the health or safety of disabled persons or their co-workers. See Disability Discrimination.
- Public employers are subject to hiring preferences for the disabled. See Discrimination Under the Montana Human Rights Act
- An employer may not discriminate on the basis of age unless it can show strong evidence that the reasonable demands of the position require an age distinction or age-related BFOQ. See Age Discrimination.
- The MHRA is enforced by the Montana Human Rights Commission. Complaints not dismissed after an informal investigation or through mediation are adjudicated in an administrative hearing. Potential remedies include cease and desist orders, pecuniary damages, court costs, and attorney fees. Punitive damages are not available, but there can be criminal penalties for willful violations. See Enforcement and Remedies.