Unlike the vast majority of states, Montana does not adhere to the doctrine of employment at will. Montana enacted the Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act (WDFEA), to balance the need to protect employees from wrongful terminations with an employer's need for protection from employee poor performance or bad behavior. Under the WDFEA, after a probationary period, an employee can be terminated only for good cause. If the employer does not establish a probationary period, the law states that there is a 6-month probationary period from the date of hire (MT Code Sec. 39-2-901 et seq.).
The WDFEA is the exclusive remedy for wrongful discharge unless other claims asserted by an employee are independent from the termination. For instance, an employee may claim a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing before termination. Such a claim would not be barred by the Act.
Under the WDFEA, once an employee has completed a probationary period of no more than 6 months, the employee can only be terminated for good cause. During the probationary period, the employment may be terminated at the will of either the employer or the employee. “Good cause” is defined as reasonable job-related grounds for dismissal based on a failure to satisfactorily perform job duties, disruption of operations, or other legitimate business reasons. Note that using a lawful product outside of work is not a legitimate business reason unless it affects the employee's ability to do his or her job or conflicts with a bona fide occupational qualification that is reasonably related to the employee's job (MT Code Sec. 39-2-313).
Under the Act, a discharge is wrongful if:
• It is in retaliation for an employee's ...