Montana Offers Better Worker Protections From Wrongful Termination
Have you lost your job and feel that you did nothing to warrant your firing?
This could mean you have grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against your former employer. Montana is the only state that isn’t an a at-will state by default.
Montana is an at-will employment state...At-will employment means that an employee can be fired at any time, and for any reason. While there are some exceptions to this rule, your employer is fully within their right to terminate your position and you’ll have few rights to fight the termination.
In most states, your employer doesn’t even need a good reason to fire you unless your contract specifically lays out rules for termination. Likewise, these states are allowed to adopt their own firing policies.
However, things are a little different in Montana.
... But Montana does things a little differentWhile employees in other states are typically considered at-will employees for the duration of their employment, Montana employees are only considered at-will during a probationary period. During this probationary period, employers are free to fire the employee just like any other at-will state. Likewise, the employee has the right to quit the job for any reason.
After the probationary period expires, however, Montana employers will need just cause to fire their employees.
Usually, employers will set the length of their probationary period and will inform their new hire of the length. If no probationary period length is established, it typically extends to 6 months from the employee’s hire date.
Once the probationary period is over, what exactly constitutes “just cause”?
Most often, it includes a failure to perform the duties of one’s job to a satisfactory level as well as performing actions that disrupt business operations.
Additionally, employers in Montana aren’t permitted to fire employees for any reason that is considered illegal by state and/or federal laws. For example, federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing based on age (if the employee is at least 40), citizenship status, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion or sex.
That said, in most states, these protections are only guaranteed if the place of employment has a certain number of employees. Once an employer reaches 15 employees, most of the above types of discrimination are prohibited; however, age discrimination needs 20 employees and citizenship status discrimination only needs 4 employees.
Again, Montana is different here.
All employers with at least 1 employee in Montana are required to comply with the state laws against discrimination.
Additionally, Montana laws also prohibit your employer from retaliation against you if you exercise your rights after being fired or any other workplace issue.
Take an example of being passed over for promotion. If you bring your concerns to HR that you feel you’ve been unjustifiably passed over for a promotion you feel you’re qualified for, your employer isn’t legally allowed to terminate you or discipline you for your inquiry.
If you feel you’ve been unjustifiably fired from your job, discriminated upon or were retaliated against, you must file a complaint with the government before you can file a lawsuit of your own. In Montana, you would need to contact the Human Rights Bureau of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's Employment Relations Division.
After contacting this department, if it’s determined that you were illegally fired from your job, contact an experienced employment or workers’ compensation attorney in your area to take a look at your case and ensure that your rights are protected.