The Montana Employment Law Guide

The state laws every business owner should know

Businesses must post all applicable state and federal labor law posters in the workplace.

Montana labor law posters to download

Federal labor law posters to download

Wages and Breaks

Minimum wage
$8.65

The current minimum wage in Montana is $8.65 for employers who have more than $110,000 in annual sales.

However, the minimum wage for employers who have less than $110,000 in revenue is $4.00.

The rate is reviewed annually and increased by the same percentage the cost of living has changed in the prior year.

Tipped min wage
$8.65

There is no separate minimum wage for tipped employees; they must be paid the standard rate.

Overtime
1.5X

Non-exempt employees must be paid an overtime rate of 1 ½ times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in one workweek.

The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.

Meal breaks
None

There are no laws requiring employers to provide meal periods or breaks, so the federal rules apply.

Federal law does not require employers to provide meal periods or breaks, but if they choose to do so, breaks lasting less than 20 minutes must be paid.

Meal periods do not need to be paid if employees are free to do as they wish.

Rest breaks
None

There are no laws requiring employers to provide meal periods or breaks, so the federal rules apply.

Federal law does not require employers to provide meal periods or breaks, but if they choose to do so, breaks lasting less than 20 minutes must be paid.

Meal periods do not need to be paid if employees are free to do as they wish.

Final Paycheck

If an employee is terminated or laid off, they must be paid all final wages immediately upon separation unless there is a written policy that extends the payment to the next regular payday or within 15 days, whichever comes first.

Employees who quit or resign due to a labor dispute must be paid all final wages by the next regular payday or within 15 days, whichever comes first.

Child Labor

Minors under the age of 16 may not work during school hours, except as provided for in Work Experience and Career Exploration Programs approved by the department or the office of public instruction.

They also may not work before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m., unless school is not in session, at which point they can work until 9 p.m.

They may not work more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours on a non-school day, or 40 hours in a week on a non-school week.

Leave Requirements

Sick days

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.

family and medical leave

Employers may be required to provide an employee unpaid leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Employers must allow pregnant employees to take leave for a reasonable amount of time for the birth of a child or pregnancy-related disability. However, they cannot require an employee to take maternity leave.

vacation leave

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one.

If an employee accrues vacation leave, it cannot be taken away for any reason and must be paid out for the leave upon separation from employment, regardless of the reason.

The amount of vacation leave accrued over time may be reasonably capped in the policy.

Jury duty

Employers are not required to pay an employee for time taken to respond to a jury summons, but they are not allowed to punish the employee in any way.

Voting time

Montana does not require employers to provide leave.

Crime Victim Leave

Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee who is the victim of a crime (or their family member, as long as they did not commit the crime) for preparing for or attending a criminal proceeding.

holiday leave

Private employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays.

Military Leave

Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee because they are or apply to be a member of the state militia. After their service, the employee is entitled to return to their job. In addition, employers may not retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights related to military service.

Bereavement leave

Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.

Hiring, firing, and more

Discrimination

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.

Additionally, the state of Montana prohibits discrimination based on the use of lawful products off the premises and outside of work hours, marital status, and/or wage garnishment for consumer debt.

Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.

Termination

Montana is the only state in the nation that expressly rejects the concept of at-will employment after an employee’s introductory period.

Under Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act, a discharge is wrongful if it was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy, it was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment, or the employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy.

Record Keeping

Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:

For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves. 

For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.

For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination. 

Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you: 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.

You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.

If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years. 

Additional laws that may apply to you

Whistleblower Protection

Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for doing any of the following: Filing a complaint under the Montana Human Rights Act, participating in an investigation or proceeding under the Montana Human Rights Act, or reporting a violation of the law or a public policy, including the Montana Constitution and administrative rules.

COBRA

COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” Montana has a limited mini-COBRA, which allows employees to continue their coverage for disability insurance for up to one year after their work hours are reduced. However, employers may choose not to provide this benefit.

Drug & Alcohol Testing

Montana only permits drug testing of applicants in safety-sensitive positions. This includes employees who work in or manage hazardous work environments, security positions, positions affecting public safety or health, positions with mandatory driving duties, or positions with fiduciary responsibility for the employer.

Background checks

Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which are available here.

Montana does not require any private-sector employers to conduct background checks on their employees.

Credit and Investigative Checks

Employers may not obtain a credit report on an employee or applicant unless they clearly and accurately inform them that a report, including what types of information it will contain, may be made.

This notice must be in writing and the employer must mail or deliver it to the applicant or employee within three days of requesting the report. The notice must inform the applicant or employee that they have the right to be informed of the nature, scope, and substance of the report requested.

Arrest and Conviction Checks

Montana has adopted the EEOC Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures. As a result, employers in Montana may not ask about applicants about arrest records and may only ask about conviction records if there is a direct relationship to the job.

Pay Practices

Employers may choose how often they pay their employees. However, they must inform an employee in writing of their rate of pay and the date of paydays upon written request. Upon written request, employers must inform employees before they start work of their rate of pay and dates of paydays. The employer may provide the notice to employees individually or by posting it in a prominent location.

social media

An employer may not require or request an employee or an applicant for employment to do the following: Disclose a user name or password for the purpose of allowing the employer or employer’s agent to access a personal social media account of the employee or job applicant; access personal social media in the presence of the employer or employer’s agent; or divulge any personal social media or information contained on personal social media.

Telephone Monitoring

Montana is an “all parties” consent state, meaning every person on a phone call must be aware that they are being monitored or recorded and have consented by placing or continuing the phone call. This means employers may monitor or record phone calls between their own employees only if each employee has been given notice that phone calls may be monitored or recorded. However, phone calls placed by employees to outside parties may not be monitored or recorded unless the outside party has also consented.

Compliance Calendar

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 Remember

This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros. 

Additional Resources