Montana is a pretty unique place in and of itself, but did you know that some of our laws are spectacularly unique as well? For instance, many of you have probably heard of “at-will employment.” Essentially, at-will employment means that the at-will employee can be fired at any time, for any reason (with a few federal and state exceptions). If your employer decides to fire you, you have been terminated and you have very limited legal recourse to contest your termination. Sounds pretty unfair, right?
Montana is unique in this regard because we have the “Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act,” rather than pure at-will employment. It is a much more preferable alternative to at-will employment laws of other states, and protects hard working Montanans such as yourself from losing your hard earned jobs.
Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-901 (WDEA) states that a discharge is wrongful if:
1) It was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy;
(2) The discharge was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment; or
(3) The employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy.
There are only a few exceptions which permit an employee to be at-will, such as during an employee’s probationary period (assumed to be six months from date of hire under Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-901, unless specifically stated otherwise upon date of hire). Some other exceptions to the WDEA are listed in Mont. Code Ann. 39-2-912:
(1) That is subject to any other state or federal statute that provides a procedure or remedy for contesting the dispute. The statutes include those that prohibit discharge for filing complaints, charges, or claims with administrative bodies or that prohibit unlawful discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, political belief, color, marital status, and other similar grounds.
(2) Of an employee covered by a written collective bargaining agreement or a written contract of employment for a specific term.
Still, if you are an employee inside your probationary period, termination is also illegal if there is a type of illegal discrimination involved. “Good cause” for termination is a tricky thing that has been litigated heavily throughout Montana, and it is your former employer’s burden to prove this existed if you are terminated outside of your probationary period and take action.
Have you been let go from a long-term job for no clear reason? Do you feel like you are a victim of discrimination and/or retaliation? The attorneys at Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley, PLLC specialize in wrongful employment actions and would be happy to meet with you to discuss the merits of your potential case. Call us today.