Montana Termination (with Discharge) laws & HR compliance analysis

Montana Termination (with Discharge): What you need to know

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.
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UPDATE: Effective March 31, 2021, the WDFEA was amended and made significant changes to the original provisions of the Act. (See MT Code Sec. 39-2-900, et seq.)
First, the default termination probationary period was amended to extend from 6 months to 12 months. The WDFEA also now allows employers to use a termination probationary period of 12 to 18 months and allows employers to extend the probationary period for the period an employee has taken a leave of absence.
Second, the definition of "good cause" termination in MT Code Sec. 39-2-903(5) is amended to include "the employee's material or repeated violation of an express provision of the employer's written policies." An employer also now has the “broadest discretion when making a decision to discharge any managerial or supervisory employee.”
Notably, wrongful discharge for violation of an employer’s personnel policies must be a material violation, before discharge, and must have deprived the employee of a fair opportunity to remain employed. In addition, an employer must now notify employees of its internal grievance procedure within 14 days from the date of the employee’s discharge by sending notice of these procedures to an employee’s last known postal or email address.

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