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

  • Montana law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide equal pay and protect whistleblowers. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Montana permits preemployment credit checks and limits drug and alcohol testing. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Montana, there requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Montana has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including payment of wages, pay frequency, pay statements, wage deductions and wage notice requirements. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Montana law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including maternity leave, crime victim leave, military leave and public official leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Montana law requires most employers to establish safety programs and safety committees. Montana also prohibits smoking in workplace. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Montana employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Montana

Montana has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including a wrongful termination law, a higher minimum wage and leave for crime victims, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as jury duty leave and overtime.

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:

Fair Employment Practices

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 a protected characteristic.

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

Equal Pay

Montana 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, establishment, office or place of employment.

Whistleblower Protections

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. The WDEA 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, i.e., whistleblowing.

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, Employee Discipline: 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, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Montana requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Credit Checks

Similar to federal law, Montana law prohibits an employer from obtaining a consumer or an investigative credit report unless a clear and conspicuous written disclosure has been made to the applicant and the employer has obtained the applicant's written authorization. The disclosure must be made in a separate written document, not as part of a job application or other form, and must consist solely of the disclosure.

Before an adverse employment action is taken (such as refusal to hire) based on a report, the employer must inform the applicant and provide a copy of the report and a summary of consumer rights under the law.

Drug 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 test only in accordance with a qualified testing program.

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 $8.30 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.

An employer that has gross sales receipts of less than $110,000 per year, and that is not covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, may pay a lower minimum wage.

Overtime

Nonexempt employees 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, an employee who works part of the workweek in nonexempt employment and part in other employment should receive overtime pay for all hours worked in that workweek regardless of the differing employments.

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 under the age of 16 age are prohibited from working in a variety of other occupations such as manufacturing, warehousing and construction. Child labor laws also list many occupations in which minors are actively permitted to engage, such as newspaper delivery and 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, Montana Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? 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:

Payment of Wages

A Montana employer must pay employees' wages in cash or by check. Wages may be paid by direct deposit or electronic paycard if certain conditions are met.

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.

Wage Notices

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 each employees with an itemized pay statement 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:

  • For the reasonable cost of room, board and other incidentals supplied by the employer;
  • As otherwise provided for by law (e.g., federal and state taxes, Social Security or garnishment order); and
  • If authorized in writing by the employee for his or her own benefit (e.g., health or retirement plan deductions).

An employer may not make deductions for damages, mistakes or shortages.

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 benefits practices in Montana can be found in Payment of Wages: Montana, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Montana and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Montana has a few laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees, which cover all employers. These laws include:

  • Maternity leave;
  • Crime victim leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Public official 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 time off and leave of absence practices in Montana can be found in the Montana Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Other Leaves: Montana, FMLA: Montana, USERRA: Montana and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Other Leaves: Federal, FMLA: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Montana requirements impacting health and safety are:

Occupational Safety and Health

Under the Montana Safety Culture Act, all employers are required to develop and administer a safety program for all employees that encompasses training. An employer with more than five employees must also create a safety committee.

Smoke-Free Workplace

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 a notice in a conspicuous place at all public entrances stating that smoking in the enclosed public place is prohibited.

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, HR and Workplace Safety: Montana, 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 HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal and Employee Health: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Montana requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

Employees who voluntary quit must be paid final wages by the earlier of 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 (the earlier of within four hours or by the end of the business day), 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.

Earned vacation is considered wages and must be included in an employee's final pay.

References

While a Montana employer is not required to provide job references, an employer that does provide references may only provide truthful statements regarding the reasons for termination.

Upon a former employee's request and within a reasonable time after termination, an employer is required to provide the employee with a written statement of the reasons for termination. An employer that does not provide this statement may not provide the termination reasons to any third party.

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 Payment of Wages: Montana, Performance Appraisals: Montana and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Montana? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.