The Montana Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment because of age when the reasonable demands of the job do not require an age distinction (MT Code Sec. 49-2-101 et seq.). The state law does not specify an age limit. This means that an employer may not discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment on the basis of a belief that the employee is too old or too young. The law applies to all employers in the state regardless of the size of the employer. Under the state law, it is unlawful to:
• Refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate with respect to an individual's compensation or terms of employment.
• Retaliate against an individual who exercises his or her rights under the law or an individual assisting in the investigation or enforcement of the state law.
• Publish an advertisement for employment specifying a limitation or discrimination as to age, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
Definition of age. The law defines age as the number of years since birth. Under state law, the term does not apply to a person's level of maturity or ability to handle responsibility. Therefore, employment decisions based on these criteria do not constitute unlawful discrimination (MT Code Sec. 49-2-101).
BFOQ exception. It is permissible to hire an individual on the basis of age because of a BFOQ reasonably necessary to the normal operation of a particular business (e.g., hiring actors to portray individuals of a certain age, or hiring persons to advertise goods designed for a specific age group). The BFOQ exception is strictly construed, however, and employers should be very cautious in relying on such a rationale when making employment decisions that ...