Employment At-Will: Montana
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Michael C. Jacobson, XpertHR Legal Editor
- Montana is the only state in the country that does not use the employment at-will doctrine as a base from which all other wrongful termination law derives. Instead, Montana presumes that certain employees are entitled to be terminated only for "just cause" or "good cause" which is defined by statute and various state cases. See Employment At-Will Doctrine, Generally.
- The Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act (WDEA) permits employers to specify a probationary period for new employees, beyond which employees would gain the right not to be terminated without cause. In the absence of a defined probationary period, Montana law requires a specific minimum probationary period. See Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act.
- Given the protections afforded by the WDEA, it is difficult for Montana employees to argue for implied contracts based on verbal exchanges. However, employers are restricted in their ability to violate express written provisions found in employee handbooks. See Employment Contracts.
- Montana also recognized public policy exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine, but unlike the WDEA, does not require that employees complete a probationary period in order to be shielded from wrongful termination in violation of public policy. See Public Policy Exceptions.
- Montana courts recognize that the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing may afford employees a right of recovery, but only if claims for breach of the covenant are based on something other than termination, which is solely covered by the WDEA. See Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing.
- Montana courts recognize other employment-related claims including intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. See Exceptions in Tort.