Discrimination and employment disputes lawyers, such as the law firm of Waddell & Magan, represent victims of unfair treatment based on race, gender (sex), national origin, religion, ethnic background, physical or mental disability, and age, as well as working men and women who have been wrongfully terminated or discharged.
Employment disputes include wrongful termination, which, in Montana, is covered by The Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act. M.C.A. 39–2–901. This Montana law is an attempt to replace the often cruel "employment at will" doctrine, where an employer could fire an employee for any reason, with certain restrictions, such as discrimination and workers compensation to name a few.
Under the law, "wrongful discharge" means any termination without good cause. "Good cause," in turn, is defined as "reasonable, job–related grounds for dismissal based on a failure to perform job duties satisfactorily, disruption of the employer's operation or other legitimate business reason." The employer is further found liable for wrongful discharge for failing to follow the termination procedures outlined in the employer's handbook.
Although the law provides a wronged worker who has completed a probationary period a right to recover, it does limit his or her damages to lost wages and fringe benefits for up to four years, and that amount must be reduced by any amounts the employee earns, or reasonably could have earned. No damages are allowed for "pain and suffering" or emotional distress. Punitive damages, however, are allowed if the employee can show clear and convincing evidence of fraud or malice. M.C.A. 39-2-905.
Actions for wrongful discharge under the WDEA must be filed within one year after the date of discharge. M.C.A. 39-2-911. The WDEA does not apply to cases of discrimination, whistleblowing or employment covered by a written collective bargaining areement or written employment contract. M.C.A. 39-2-912.
Workplace discrimination and sexual harassment
Montana recognizes the right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, religion, color, sex, physical or mental disability, age, or national origin. M.C.A. 49–1–102. The right to be free of such discrimination is a civil right which includes the right to both get and keep a job without discrimination. Employment discrimination is prohibited by employers, labor organizations and employment agencies in various ways. M.C.A. 49–2–303.
"Sexual harassment" is a type of discrimination that includes unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:
- Submission to that conduct is made a term or condition of employment; or
- Submission to or rejection of that conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision; or
- The conduct has the effect of unreasonably interfering with work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
It also includes harassment directed toward a person because of gender, or a pattern of favoritism toward sex partners over more qualified persons.
An employer may not fire a woman because she is pregnant, or refuse to allow her a reasonable leave of absence for that pregnancy. Nor may the employer force a woman to take a mandatory maternity leave for an unreasonable length of time, or deny her compensation for a pregnancy–related disability. M.C.A. 49–2–310. Upon letting the employer know that she intends to return to work at the end of her leave of absence, the employee must be reinstated to her original job – or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other service credits. If a private employer can show that its circumstances have changed so as to make it impossible or unreasonable to reinstate or place the employee in an equivalent job, then it will not have to do so.
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