Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Montana?

April 7th 2024

It is crucial to recognize that your rights as an hourly employee extend beyond mere compliance with applicable laws. They play a pivotal role in enhancing your professional development and bolstering your confidence as you navigate your career path.

The income you earn, as you diligently clock in and out each day, significantly influences your standing in the professional world. Given the variations in employment laws across U.S. states, you may be questioning the specific details of your employment rights to ensure they align with your state’s regulations.

That is precisely why we have thoughtfully written this article to address your inquiries related to various aspects of employment. Our objective is to give you the essential information needed to safeguard your legal rights throughout the duration of your employment.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Montana
Wage and Hour Regulations in Montana
Rest Laws in Montana
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Montana
Termination of Employment in Montana

Defining an Hourly Employee in Montana

What is Hourly Employment in Montana?

An hourly employee is categorised as an individual who receives compensation based on the number of hours they put in during a given pay period. This method of compensation often results in fluctuations in their earnings from one paycheck to the next.

To ensure that hourly employees are accurately compensated for the hours they work, employers typically utilise time tracking software to keep track of the hours they put in. Contrarily, salaried employees earn a fixed annual salary regardless of the actual number of hours they put in.

Additionally, while hourly employees may qualify for overtime compensation, they might also receive fewer employment benefits, such as health insurance or retirement benefits, unlike salaried employees.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in Montana?

Aspect Hourly Employees Salaried Employees
Compensation Compensated for each hour worked. Compensated on a monthly or bimonthly basis. 
Overtime Pay Qualified to earn overtime pay May not be qualified to earn overtime pay.
Minimum wage Qualified to earn the state’s minimum wage. May not be qualified to earn the state’s minimum wage.
Employment benefits Lesser job benefits. More job benefits.
Rest and Meal Breaks No legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks. No legal entitlement to mandatory rest and meal breaks.
Compensation Stability Compensation is dependent on the hours worked. Compensation is independent of the hours worked.

To learn more about Montana labor laws, you can access our informative guides on understanding the rights of salaried employees in Montana and how to run payroll in Montana.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Montana 

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Montana?

It is important to emphasize that the laws implemented at federal and state levels do not define a certain upper limit for the weekly work hours of employees. Nevertheless, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to grant extra compensation to employees for working any hours beyond 40 hours in a week, at a consistent rate of 150% of their regular hourly wage. Given this consideration, it can be inferred that a regular workweek generally comprises 40 hours.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Montana?

The term “minimum wage” refers to the least amount of pay an employee can be compensated for each hour worked. While federal wage laws are overseen by the Fair Labor Standards Act, each state possesses the discretion to fix a minimum wage that is higher than the federal baseline. Remarkably, Montana  is one of the states that have established a minimum wage that is higher than the federal requirement.

As of January 1, 2024, Montana’s minimum hourly wage is set at $10.30. Therefore, in alignment with Montana’s minimum wage law, an hourly employee generally earns a minimum of $412 in a regular 40-hour work week.

Do All Employees Earn the Minimum Wage in Montana?

While some employees are legally entitled to earn the state’s mandated minimum hourly wage, it is worth noting that both federal and state laws have established exceptions for certain types of employees regarding both minimum wage and overtime requirements. These excluded employees involve the following groups:

  • Tipped Employees: Employees who receive tips may receive a lower minimum wage than the state’s minimum wage, as long as the tips added with the hourly wage equals to the state’s minimum hourly wage of $10.30
  • Full-time students: High school or college students working on a part-time basis may earn a minimum wage of $8.75 per hour, which is 85% of the state’s minimum wage requirement, for up to 20 hours of work in a single week
  • Employees below the age of 20 years: Federal law permits employees below the age of 20 to earn a minimum hourly wage of $4.25 within the first 90 days of commencing employment. After 90 days, they must receive the minimum wage fixed by the laws of the state

Other job categories that are excluded from the minimum wage include:

  • White-collar employees (i.e. bona fide executives, administrative workers, and professionals)
  • Outside salesmen
  • Computer professional employees
  • Students participating in a distributive education program established under the auspices of an accredited educational agency
  • Employees working in a private home with duties that consist of menial chores such as babysitting, lawn mowing, cleaning sidewalks
  • Employees working directly for the head of a household to care for the dependent children of the head of household
  • Immediate family members of an employer or individuals dependent upon an employer for half or more of their support in the customary sense of being labeled a dependent
  • Individuals who are not regular employees of a non-profit organization and volunteer his or her services to the non-profit organization on a fully or partially reimbursed basis
  • Individuals who are retired or semi-retired and provide incidental work as a condition of their living on a farm or ranch
  • Individuals employed by the United States of America provided the terms of their employment, resident managers working in a lodging establishment or assisted living facility and live in the establishment or facility in which they are employed.
  • Direct sellers as defined in 26 U.S.C. 3508
  • Individuals placed as participants in public assistance programs authorized by Title 53 into work settings for the purpose of developing employment skills. The placement may be with either a public or private employer. The exclusion does not apply to an employment relationship formed in the work setting outside the scope of the employment skills activities authorized by Title 53
  • Individuals serving as a foster parent, are licensed foster care providers, and providing care without wage compensation to no more than six foster children in the provider’s personal residence. The individual may receive compensation for providing room and board, receiving training, respite care, leisure and recreational activities, and providing for other needs and activities that may arise in the provision of in-home foster care
  • Employees working in domestic service to provide services of companionship (as defined in 29 CFR 552.6) or respite care for individuals who are unable to care for themselves due to age or infirmity as provided under section 213(a)(15) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 U.S.C. 213), when the individual providing the service is employed directly by a family member or an individual who is legal guardian
  • Employees of seasonal nonprofit establishments that are organized camps or religious or educational conference centers
  • Students enrolled at a postsecondary educational institution who assist with the implementation of student housing programs and receive full or partial remuneration in the form of free or reduced housing in university or campus-owned housing facilities

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Montana?

According to the overtime rules established by Montana’s labor laws, an employee who works beyond 40 hours a week must be compensated at a pay rate of 1.5 times their standard hourly wage. Therefore, Montana’s hourly employees typically earn $15.45 for every hour worked overtime.

Do All Employees Earn Overtime Pay in Montana?

While some employees may be eligible to earn overtime compensation according to federal and state laws, it is also worth recognizing that Montana’s statutory laws explicitly exclude the categories of employees listed below from earning the state’s overtime wage:

  • Employees subject to the authority of the United States secretary of transportation to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service pursuant to the provisions of 49 U.S.C. 31502
  • Employees of an employer subject to 49 U.S.C. 10501 and 49 U.S.C. 60501, the provisions of part I of the Interstate Commerce Act
  • Individuals working as outside buyers of poultry, eggs, cream, or milk, in their raw or natural state
  • Salespersons, parts persons, or mechanics paid on a commission or contract basis and primarily engaged in selling or servicing automobiles, trucks, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, or farm implements if the salespersons, parts persons, or mechanics work for a nonmanufacturing establishment primarily engaged in the business of selling the vehicles or implements to ultimate purchasers
  • Salespersons primarily engaged in selling trailers, boats, or aircraft if the salespersons are employed by a nonmanufacturing establishment primarily engaged in the business of selling trailers, boats, or aircraft to ultimate purchasers
  • Salespersons paid on a commission or contract basis who are primarily engaged in selling advertising for a radio or television station employer
  • Employees working as drivers or driver’s helpers making local deliveries who are compensated based of trip rates or other delivery payment plan if the commissioner finds that the plan has the general purpose and effect of reducing hours worked by the 
  • Employees to or below the maximum workweek applicable to them under 39-3-405
  • Employees working in agriculture or in connection with the operation or maintenance of ditches, canals, reservoirs, or waterways that are not owned or operated for profit, that are not operated on a sharecrop basis, and that are used exclusively for supply and storing of water for agricultural purposes
  • Employees of an establishment commonly recognized as a country elevator, including an establishment that sells products and services used in the operation of a farm if no more than five employees are employed by the establishment
  • Drivers working for an employer that operates taxicabs
  • Employees who work with the employees’ spouse by a nonprofit educational institution to serve as the parents of children who are orphans or one of whose natural parents is deceased or who are enrolled in the institution and reside in residential facilities of the institution so long as the children are in residence at the institution and so long as the employee and the employee’s spouse reside in the facilities and receive, without cost, board and lodging from the institution and are together compensated, on a cash basis, at an annual rate of not less than $10,000
  • Employees who plant or tend trees; cruise, survey, or fell timber; or transport logs or other forestry products to a mill, processing plant, railroad, or other transportation terminal if the employer in the forestry or lumbering operations does not employ more than eight (8) employees
  • Employees of a sheriff’s office who are working under an established work period in lieu of a workweek pursuant to 7-4-2509(1)
  • Employees of a municipal or county government who are working under a work period not exceeding 40 hours in a 7-day period established through a collective bargaining agreement when a collective bargaining unit represents the employees or by mutual agreement of the employer and employees when a bargaining unit is not recognized. 
  • Employment in excess of 40 hours in a 7-day, 40-hour work period must be compensated at a rate of not less than 1½ times the hourly wage rate for the employees
  • Employees of a hospital or other establishment primarily engaged in the care of the sick, disabled, aged, or mentally ill or defective who is working under a work period not exceeding 80 hours in a 14-day period established through either a collective bargaining agreement when a collective bargaining unit represents the employees or by mutual agreement of the employer and employees when a bargaining unit is not recognized
  • Employment in excess of 8 hours a day or 80 hours in a 14-day period must be compensated for at a rate of not less than 1½ times the hourly wage rate for the employees
  • Firefighters who work under a work period established in a collective bargaining agreement entered into between a public employer and a firefighters’ organization or its exclusive representative
  • Officers or other employees of a police department in a city of the first or second class who is working under a work period established by the chief of police under 7-32-4118
  • Employees of a department of public safety working under a work period established pursuant to 7-32-115
  • Employees of a retail establishment if the regular rate of pay exceeds 1½ times the minimum hourly rate applicable under section 206 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. 206, and if more than half of the employees’ compensation for a period of not less than 1 month is derived from commissions on goods and services
  • Individuals working as guides, cooks, camp tenders, outfitter’s assistants, or livestock handlers by a licensed outfitter as defined in 37-47-101 
  • Employer in a second- or third-class city or a town
  • Employees of the consolidated legislative branch as provided in 5-2-503
  • Employees of the state or its political subdivisions employed, at the employees’ option, on an occasional or sporadic basis in a capacity other than the employees’ regular occupation
  • Employees of air carriers subject to the provisions of 45 U.S.C. 181, et seq., whose hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek were not required by the air carriers but were arranged through voluntary agreements among employees to trade scheduled work hours
  • Employees working as a radio announcers, news editors, or chief engineers by an 
  • Employees working in agriculture by a farmer, notwithstanding other employment of the employee in connection with livestock auction operations in which the farmer is engaged as an adjunct to the raising of livestock, either alone or in conjunction with other farmers, if the employee is:
    • primarily employed during a workweek in agriculture by a farmer; and
    • paid for employment in connection with the livestock auction operations at a wage rate not less than that prescribed by 39-3-404

Rest Laws in Montana

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in Montana?

While several states in the U.S. have implemented their own laws pertaining to rest and meal breaks, others rely on the federal requirements set by the FLSA when it comes to compensating employees for these breaks due to the absence of particular state laws. Notably, Montana is one of those states that adheres to the federal requirements.

According to the federal requirements, employers are not required to extend rest and meal breaks to employees. However, if they decide to offer these breaks, they must compensate employees for rest breaks that last 20 minutes or less in length. Contrarily, meal breaks that last 30 minutes or longer do not have to be compensated for.

As for lactating breaks, the statutory laws of Montana mandates all state and county governments, municipalities, school districts, and the university system to make reasonable efforts to furnish employees with a non-restroom area that is in close proximity to the workplace for them to express milk. Conversely, public employers are encouraged but not required to follow this practice.  In addition, Montana employers are not required to compensate employees for breastfeeding breaks.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Montana?

In the United States, employees are typically provided with time off for personal, medical, or family-related purposes. Some of these types of leave are regulated by either state or federal laws, which require qualifying employees who meet the specific requirements to be given these leaves. In Montana, both state and federal laws provide employees with legal rights to use different leave options. The list below highlights some of the many types of leave that you, as an hourly employee in Montana, have the legitimate right to use.

  • Jury Duty leave: Montana employers are prohibited from taking adverse employment actions against employees who respond to a jury summons. Furthermore, employees are not required to be compensated for taking time off to respond to a jury summons.
  • Crime Victim leave: Montana’s victims’ rights laws protect crime victim employees from having adverse employment actions taken against them for using their crime victim leave for preparing or taking part in a criminal proceeding.
  • Military leave: Under the Montana Military Service Employment Rights Act, employees are safeguarded from discharge or discrimination by their employers based on their membership in or application to join the state militia. The Act also grants employees the right to reinstatement and protection from discrimination when they assert their military service-related rights.
  • Family and Medical Leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides eligible employees with the legal right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave annually for certain family or serious health-related reasons. To be qualify for this leave, employees must meet the following criteria:
    • They must have been employed by the same employer for a minimum of 12 months before using this leave.
    • They need to have worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours within the 12-month period while employed by the same employer.
    • They must work for an employer with a workforce of at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Montana

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Montana?

Your employer might retain a portion of your income for different purposes, such as taxes, garnishments, and benefits like health insurance. Nevertheless, in view of the intricacies surrounding payroll deductions and the likelihood of illegitimate wage withholdings, laws at both federal and state levels have been established to safeguard your wages from improper deductions.

In Montana, employers are allowed to withhold taxes and federally mandated garnishments from the paycheck of an employee. They are also permitted to make deductions in wages for board, lodging, or incidentals of benefit to the employee, provided that these deductions are listed in writing. However, an employer is prohibited from deducting an employee’s paycheck for any of the following:

  • Cash shortages
  • Stolen, lost, or damaged property
  • Claimed indebtedness from employee to employer
  • Montana law does not prohibit employers from requiring workers to purchase uniforms, tools, or other items needed for employment

What are the Provided Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Montana State Law?

As an hourly employee, it is imperative to keep abreast of the employment rights and compensation benefits that you have the right to during the course of your employment. The following list details some of the various employment benefits that are available to you in Montana:

  • Minimum wage: Montana’s employees possess the legal right to receive the state’s prevailing minimum pay of $10.30 per hour.
  • Overtime: At both federal and state levels, employers are obligated to pay non-exempt employees any hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week at a set pay rate of 150% their regular hourly pay.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance: According to Montana’s Workers Compensation Act, employees (hired by employers with a workforce of 3 or more employees) who have sustained job-related injuries or illnesses are eligible to receive several benefits under the Act and must promptly report their injuries in time to prevent a denial of their benefits. Moreover, as of October 1, 2021, employers are required to pay reasonable burial expenses worth up to $10,000 for employees who have died as a result of a work-related injury. 
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary income to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. These benefits are designed to partially offset lost wages while the unemployed individual seeks new employment opportunities or awaits rehiring. Montana state law prohibits employers from coercing employees to pay these contributions from their paychecks or from waiving their rights to unemployment benefits.
  • Extended health insurance benefits: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is a federal statute that allows employees to prolong their health insurance benefits following the termination of their employment. Since federal COBRA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees, numerous states have established their own version of the law, often referred to as “mini-COBRAs.” Montana’s mini-COBRA enables employees to maintain their health insurance benefits for a duration of up to one year after the reduction of their work hours. Although, providing such benefits lie at the discretion of employers.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Montana State Law?

Both federal and state legislatures have implemented a series of laws to safeguard employees from a variety of workplace disparities, covering matters concerning health and safety, discrimination, reporting wrongdoing, and more. The list below outlines several fundamental laws that provide legal protection for your rights and welfare while you are employed.

  • Social media protection laws: Under Montana law, employers are prohibited from requesting or requiring a job applicant to do any of the following: disclose their social media account login credentials, grant access to their social media accounts, or reveal personal information from their personal social media profiles while applying for a job.
  • Telephone monitoring protection laws: Montana is an  “all parties” consent state, which means that all individuals on a phone call must be aware that their conversation is being recorded or monitored and have given their consent for the call to be monitored or recorded. Therefore, employers can only monitor or record phone calls between their own employees if each employee has been given prior notice that the call will be monitored or recorded. When it comes to phone calls made between employees and outside parties, such calls may only be monitored or recorded if the outside party has given prior consent.
  • Child labor protection laws: “Montana’s child labor laws enforce strict regulations on the types of jobs minors can engage in and their allowable working hours during the school year, depending on their age group. Additionally, Montana has amended its child labor laws to exclude individuals aged 16 or 17 from the definition of minors, as long as they are student employees working under the supervision of a qualified and experienced individual.
  • Whistleblower protection laws: Montana’s employees are protected from being discharged or discriminated against for doing any one of the following actions: submitting a complaint under the Montana Human Rights Act, partaking in an investigation or proceeding under the Montana Human Rights Act, or reporting a legal or public policy violation, including the Montana Constitution and administrative rules.
  • Anti-discrimination Covid-19 vaccination protection laws: Employers in Montana are prohibited from discriminating against a job applicant  based on their vaccination status or whether they have an immunity passport.

Termination of Employment in Montana

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Montana?

Similar to many other U.S. states, New Mexico adheres to the employment-at-will doctrine. This legal principle provides both employers and employees with the freedom to terminate the employment relationship at their discretion, with or without any reason and at any time. Although these laws are generally applicable, particular exceptions exist that curtail the employer’s broad capacity to terminate an employee. These exceptions include:

  • Breach of contract: In any U.S state, failure to comply with the written or oral terms of an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement can result in a lawsuit being filed, and Montana follows suit. In simple terms, employers and employees who enter into employment contracts are obligated to adhere to its respective terms. These contracts may specify whether an employee is identified as “at-will” or may outline the specific conditions that would justify an employee’s termination. Commonly, these agreements include clauses related to moral conduct and work performance.
  • Public policy: According to the laws of Montana, public policy comprises policies associated with public safety, health, and welfare as established by statutes, administrative rules, or constitutional provisions. Conversely, Federal law employs a wider definition and forbids employers from terminating employees for reasons deemed illegitimate by society at large. Whether under federal or state law, employees are safeguarded from adverse actions such as termination when they object to participating in unlawful activities or when they report their employers’ illegal practices. 
  • Retaliation: The practice of an employer making adverse employment actions against an employee who exercises their rights is known as ‘retaliation’. Hence, employees who register complaints against their employers are protected by both state and federal laws. For example, if an employee raises concerns pertaining to the discrimination of age resulting in the passing up of a promotion and eventually gets fired, it could be considered as retaliation. A similar claim of retaliation may be raised if an employee gets demoted after reporting instances of sexual harassment.
  • Discrimination: Employees in the U.S. are protected under state and federal laws from experiencing adverse employment actions taken against them by their employers based on their age, disability, genetic information, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, and national origin. In addition to these protected characteristics, Montana’s laws prohibit discrimination based on the marital status of an employee. This law applies to all employers with one or more employees.

In addition, an employee who has been terminated or who has resigned because of a labor dispute must receive their final paycheck immediately upon their separation from employment, unless there is a written policy set forth that extends the payment to the next regularly scheduled payday or within 15 days, whichever occurs first.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Montana?

Severance pay is a form of monetary compensation that is given by employers to departing employees. Its primary purpose serves to financially assist individuals as they transition between jobs and actively pursue new career opportunities.

While severance pay is a valuable benefit for employees, neither federal nor state laws in Montana mandate its provision to employees. Instead, it is a matter contingent on the mutual agreement between the employer and the employee. Therefore, if an employer chooses to extend severance pay, it must be explicitly defined in the employment contract or a collective bargaining agreement, to which both you and your employer must give consent. Severance pay is typically calculated based on the employee’s tenure with the company where it is common practice for one week’s worth of pay to be given to employees for every year of their service in the state of Montana.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is evident why acquiring a strong grasp of the essential elements of hourly employment is absolutely paramount. This understanding not only ensures that you are kept informed about the legal employment rights that pertain to you, but also enables you to proactively confront potential violations in your workplace.

Furthermore, staying ahead in the ever-developing realm of employment laws and regulations is equally important. Remaining proactive allows you to stay ahead of the curve in safeguarding your rights and overall well-being throughout your employment. 

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.