Montana Human Rights Bureau Department of Labor and Industry Employment Relations Division
What We Do
Provide neutral investigations of discrimination complaints.
Offer early mediation to resolve complaints prior to investigation.
Provide information to employers and employees to prevent discrimination cases.
Prevent 500-600 cases from going directly to district court.
Discrimination in What?
What we don’t do
Deal with every workplace issue
Provide legal advice
Advocate for either party
Why should an employer care about workplace discrimination
Costs of workplace discrimination
Human Rights Bureau Process
How many employees must I have before an employee can file a discrimination claim?
Montana Law covers anyone with one or more employees
Federal laws cover 15 or more employees – Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires 20 or more employees
A person can file under federal and state laws on the same claim
What is Illegal Discrimination
If based on a protected class, these actions are illegal:
Refusal to hire
Deny maternity leave, not reinstated
Deny reasonable accommodation
Discriminate in compensation or other term of employment
What is a protected class
Race or national origin
Physical or mental disability
Political belief (government employees)
Family status (housing only)
Montana Law protects all ages
Federal Law protects employees 40 years of age and older.
It is unlawful to discriminate against someone in employment based on their religion.
The law requires employers to accommodate religious needs such as observance of Sabbath or religious holidays and restrictive dress codes, unless it causes undue hardship.
What is undue hardship with regards to religious accommodation
More than ordinary administrative costs
Violation of bona fide seniority system or union contract
What is illegal harassment?
Harassment can be any behavior that slanders or shows hostility toward another person because of their protected class. Harassment creates an offensive, intimidating work environment and/or negatively affects a person’s work performance or employment opportunities.
Examples of harassment
Repeated jokes, innuendoes or comments
Lyrics in music that are offensive
Discussing co-worker’s personal life with others
Blocking another’s movement
Unwelcome physical touching
What is not harassment under the Human Rights Act
An offhanded comment
The Human Rights Act is not a “civility code” for the workplace
The behavior must
Be sufficiently frequent or severe to create a hostile work environment
Result in a tangible employment action
What is sexual harassment
Propositions for sexual favors
Inappropriate comments about appearance
Harassment based upon gender in a non-traditional setting (male nurse or female construction worker)
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances
The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
The harasser can be a supervisor, an agent of the employer, a co-worker or a non-employee, such as a vendor.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive behavior.
The employer knew or should have known, but did not correct the problem
If the supervisor knew about the harassment and failed to inform the owner, the company could still be liable. Supervisors must act. Do not ignore complaints!
How to prevent sexual harassment
Grievance or complaint policy is necessary to invoke the Affirmative Defense in co-worker harassment claims.
Grievance or complaint policy with ways to report other than to the harasser.
Communicate with employees that harassment will not be tolerated.
Take immediate, effective action when a complaint is received.
Follow up to be sure the harassment stopped.
What is the employee’s responsibility
The employee must take reasonable steps to avoid harm from the harassment
This responsibility is usually done by using the employer’s complaint procedure
Non-discrimination in hiring
Reasonable maternity leave
No mandatory unreasonable leave
Use of accrued benefits and leave time
Equal treatment in employment benefit plans
Do not confuse it with FMLA
Preventing Pregnancy Discrimination
Communicate with the pregnant employee regarding her anticipated medical leave and return dates
Upon signifying her intent to return, the employee must be reinstated to her original job or an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits, unless it is impossible or unreasonable to do so.
49-2-310 MCA describes unlawful acts of employers with regards to maternity leave.
49-2-311 MCA describes reinstatement after maternity leave.
If the person is qualified for the job and is disabled, you cannot:
Refuse an application, interview or employment
Terminate because of the disability
Disability within the meaning of the ADA
Physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
A record of a substantially limiting impairment; or
Regarded or treated as having an impairment, although no impairment
Major life activities include, but are not limited to:
Performing manual tasks
Caring for oneself
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that if there are mitigating measures that correct the impairment resulting in no substantial limitation of a major life activity, the employee is not disabled under ADA. (Sutton v. United Airlines)
Disabled person must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Employers have a duty to assess an employee’s disability as it relates to a job qualification on an individual basis.
Employees cannot be disqualified for a job due to an impairment without an individual assessment of that employee.
The assessment must look at the totality of the circumstances and the whole person.
Employees have a duty to notify the employer if they need an accommodation if it is not apparent to the employer.
When a qualified individual with a disability makes a request, the employer is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation, unless to do so would cause an undue hardship
What is a reasonable accommodation?
It depends on:
Is something less expensive or more convenient available
Employees preferred accommodation is not required
Endangers employees’ health or safety
BFOQ – Bona Fide Occupational Qualification exemption exists
Causes undue hardship (creates an extraordinary financial hardship)
Eliminates an essential job function
Application Process as it relates to the ADA
When requested by an individual with a disability, accommodations must be made in the application process, unless they create an undue hardship
Employers can request documentation of a disability when an employee requests an accommodation.
When the disability and/or need for the accommodation is not obvious.
Employer may only require documentation that is needed to establish that person has a legal disability which necessitates a reasonable accommodation.
Prevention is the best tool
Post your policy
Establish a complaint procedure
Promptly investigate complaints
Insure no retaliation
Responsibilities of employers
Record keeping for 2 years, longer if complaint is filed
Human Rights Bureau www.montanadiscrimination.com (800) 542-0807