The Big Sky state of Montana is a giant indeed – at least in terms of biological and geological diversity and sheer size. Montana is composed of almost 150,000 square miles of terrain. However, in terms of population and economy, Montana is tiny. Within those 150,000 square miles, fewer than one million permanent residents reside, according to a 2008 census. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates the state’s gross product at just around $26 billion. The economy rests primarily on agriculture, tourism, mining and lumber. This great northwestern state produces potatoes, wheat, cherries, and ranching products, and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year to national wilderness refuges, like Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry oversees state employment discrimination law. This division supports citizens, laborers, and employees alike in providing opportunities, education, remediation, and enforcement. It also regulates and oversees the state’s workers’ compensation system, investigates discrimination, enforces laws, attempts to resolve disputes, does research, and helps employers and employees alike clarify relevant distinctions between Montana and U.S. discrimination law. (Title 39 of the Constitution of the State of Montana deals with labor law if you’re interested in referring to specific state codes about your discrimination matter.)
Over the past ten years, it has become “trendy” for wealthy individuals from the coasts to buy resort properties in Montana’s most scenic regions. Conflicts between these “carpetbagger types” and local Montanans inevitably arise and sometimes devolve into disputes over labor laws and employment discrimination and harassment.
Although harassment and discrimination are among the most common employment-related legal matters in Montana, workers often face a significant number of additional challenges. These include:
- Wage and hour disputes. Employers have the legal responsibility to compensate their employees fairly for the work they perform. Companies can get in trouble for falsifying timecards, erroneously classifying workers as exempt from overtime, pressuring employees to work “off the clock,” or stealing tips from service workers.
- Retaliation. When an employee witnesses actual or potential violations, such as discrimination, unsafe working conditions, or wage theft, these incidents should be reported immediately. Occasionally, employers have retaliated against individuals by firing them, reducing their hours, reassigning them to less desirable duties, or otherwise penalizing them. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, such behaviors are illegal.
- FMLA noncompliance. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides protections for employees who take time off work to care for themselves or their family members if there is a birth, adoption, or chronic illness to address. Each worker may take up to 12 weeks off per year without losing his or her job.
If you have experienced a workplace violation at your job, you may feel conflicted and confused about what to do. To learn about your options to respond to perceived discrimination, harassment, wage violations, retaliation, or unfair practices, contact a local employment attorney. He or she can help you explore your legal options and begin your case.