Most employment issues are regulated by state and federal laws. Montana workers should be familiar with the laws discussed in this summary.
Want Ads and Screening Applicants
Legal Content in Want Ads: An employment advertisement found online, in a newspaper, trade journal or posted in the workplace cannot discriminate based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, religion, and disability.
Employee Interviews: While interviewing prospective employees, employers cannot ask questions regarding race, national origin, religion, age, arrest record, marital status, or children. Asking about criminal convictions is permitted. A disabled person may be asked if he or she requires an accommodation to perform the job.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Rules
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the standards for minimum wage and overtime laws. Montana’s minimum wage is higher than the federal rate of $7.25 and is currently at $7.65, though it is adjusted for cost of living each January 1.
Employees who earn a certain amount of tips monthly must still earn at least the state minimum wage each hour. Eligible employees get overtime at 1.5 times the regular applicable minimum wage if they work over 40 hours per week.
Those exempt from Montana's minimum and overtime laws include non-FLSA employees at companies not engaged in interstate commerce with annual gross sales of less than $110,000. Such workers may be paid $4.00 per hour. A training wage of $4.25 per hour can be paid to workers age 18 or younger for the first 90 days of employment. The student minimum wage is $6.50 for up to 20 hours of work for certain employers. Others include under-18 learners who are farm workers; some disabled workers; immediate family employees; government employees; bona fide executives, administrative and professional employees; outside salespersons who earn commissions, and certain domestic service workers.
A Safe Workplace
State and federal laws require a safe and danger-free worksite for all employees. Employees may report safety violations anonymously and are entitled to protection from retaliation.
Workers Compensation Insurance
Most employers of permanent or temporary, full or part-time workers must maintain workers’ compensation coverage. This is a no-fault insurance system for workers injured on the job or who contract an occupational disease. The system provides weekly wage loss compensation, payment of medical bills and prescriptions, vocational rehabilitation, disability payments, payments for loss of a body part, and death benefits to survivors. Statutory guidelines provide the amount of benefits to be paid.
Those not covered under workers' compensation include private domestic servants, cosmetologists, licensed real estate brokers or salespersons, an employer’s spouse and casual employees. Find out other frequently asked questions about workers compensation benefits.
Family and Medical Leave
Family and Medical Leave Act
Montana has adopted the federal Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA) for employees only in companies with at least 50 employees and all public and state employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year. An employee may take up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period of unpaid leave to care for himself, a family member, or a newborn or newly adopted child. Employees may take up to 26 months to care for a military family member.
Montana has no law more generous than the FMLA, though employers must provide an employee a reasonable leave of absence for pregnancy.
Leave to Vote
The state has no law requiring employers to permit employees leave to vote on Election Day.
Harassment of any workers is prohibited under state and federal laws. This includes making sexually explicit comments, lewd jokes, displaying photos, drawings, or sending email that create a hostile working environment. Employees and supervisors may not engage in conduct that threatens or intimidates another employee or which constitutes unwanted physical contact of any kind.
Unwanted sexual contact or offensive references are prohibited but harassment also refers to any offensive gesture, comment or any other activity that is directed at workers based on their religion, national origin, gender, race, old age, or disability. The conduct must be ongoing or pervasive, not simple teasing or a single off-hand comment.
Retaliation Against Employees
An employee who has been disciplined, discharged, demoted, or who voluntarily resigns based on a hostile working environment may have a claim of employment discrimination against the employer.
Legal and Illegal Termination
- At-Will Contracts: Employers and employees may end their employment relationship at any time in the absence of a written contract.
- Wrongful Firing: Employers cannot fire someone for a discriminatory reason or because the person was the target of harassment. Other prohibited reasons include pregnancy, age, work-related injuries, or illness.
There are no federal laws regarding vacation pay, and Montana has no law requiring employers to provide paid vacation time. But if an employee earns paid vacation time, it may not be forfeited for any reason including termination.
Unemployment and COBRA
- Unemployment Eligibility: Residents or in-state workers must have been discharged through no fault of their own, not be disabled, be actively seeking work, file ongoing claims, and report job offers and refusals.
- COBRA: Federal law requires employers with at least 20 full-time employees to allow discharged workers the right to continue group health benefits for up to 18 months and up to 36 months if there is a “qualifying event.” The state does not have its own COBRA law for extending coverage to employees not covered under the federal law.
An Employment Attorney Protects Your Rights
Federal and state employment laws are more complex than presented in this summary. Consult a Montana employment attorney if you have concerns regarding employment laws that affect you.