Filing a Wage and Hour Claim - Montana
Montana’s overtime law is essentially the same as the federal provision: if an employee works more than 40 hours in a given workweek, that employee is entitled to pay at one and one-half times the employee’s regular hourly wage.
The exceptions to Montana’s overtime law generally track the federal law exceptions. There are however a few jobs that are exempt from Montana’s law that are not exempt under federal law:
- Salespeople paid on a commission or contract basis who are primarily engaged in selling advertising for a radio or television station employer
- People employed as guides, cooks, camp tenders, or livestock handlers by licensed outfitters
- Certain public employees engaged in collective bargaining agreements.
Jobs that are exempt from Montana’s minimum wage laws are also exempt from the overtime laws (see below).
The current minimum wage in Montana is $8.50 per hour for employers with gross annual sales greater than $110,000. Anyone who is not covered by the federal minimum wage law is considered covered under Montana law, unless (s)he falls into one of the exceptions below. The minimum wage is subject to adjustment each year based on the consumer price index.
Employers whose gross annual sales are less than $110,000 may pay their employees $4.00 under Montana law. However, if the employer is covered by the FLSA, or producing or moving goods between states, they must pay employees whichever wage is higher between the federal and state minimums.
Under Montana law tips do not count as part of an employee’s wage for purposes of the minimum wage. That means that restaurants and other employers with tipped employees must pay minimum wage before tips. Montana also does not permit lower training wages or the deduction of meal credits.
Montana’s minimum wage and overtime laws cover all jobs that are exempt under federal law. However, the following jobs are exempt under Montana law, which means that they are not covered either by the minimum wage or by the overtime provisions; most of these differ from federal law, but a few are the same:
- Students participating in an accredited distributive education program;
- Persons employed in private homes whose duties consist of menial chores, such as babysitting, mowing lawns, and cleaning sidewalks;
- Persons employed directly by the head of a household to care for children dependent upon the head of the household;
- Immediate members of the family of an employer, or persons dependent upon an employer for half or more of their support in the customary sense of being a dependent;
- Persons who are not regular employees of a nonprofit organization and who voluntarily offer their services to a nonprofit organization on a fully or partially reimbursed basis;
- Persons with disabilities engaged in work that is incidental to training or evaluation programs or whose earning capacity is so severely impaired that they are unable to engage in competitive employment;
- Apprentices or learners, who may be exempted for up to 30 days of their employment;
- Learners under the age of 18 who are employed as farm workers, but only for up to 180 days, and they must not be paid less than 50% of the minimum wage rate;
- Retired or semi-retired persons performing part-time incidental work as a condition of their residence on a farm or ranch;
- Bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees; or outside salespersons;
- Federal employees;
- Resident managers employed in lodging establishments or assisted living facilities who, under the terms of their employment, live in the establishment or facility;
- A direct seller as defined in 26 U.S.C. 3508, which includes persons selling products from their home or non-retail establishment, and persons who are in the business of delivering or distributing newspapers or shopping news;
- A person placed as a participant in a public assistance program authorized by Title 53 into a work setting 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.
- A person serving as a foster parent, licensed as a foster care provider, and providing care without wage compensation to no more than six foster children in the provider’s own residence. The person may receive reimbursement for providing room and board, obtaining training, respite care, leisure and recreational activities, and providing for other needs and activities arising in the provision of in-home foster care;
- Domestic employees who provide companionship services, or respite care for individuals who, because of age or infirmity, are unable to care for themselves; and the worker is employed directly by a family member or legal guardian.
For more detailed information on Montana’s overtime and minimum wage laws, visit Montana’s official state website.
No cities or counties in Montana currently have a minimum wage different from the state minimum of $8.50 per hour.
Like federal law, Montana labor law does not require your employer to provide rest or meal breaks. However, if your employer does provide such breaks, they are counted as paid time, unless they are longer than 30 minutes and you are completely relieved from work during them.
Under Montana labor law, an employer who does not pay an employee properly is guilty of a misdemeanor. Violations of wage-and-hour provisions for certain other jobs may carry other criminal penalties.
Detailed information on how to file a wage-and-hour claim with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry can be found at Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry webpage. If you file an administrative claim, the Department can issue a default order (if your employer does not respond) or may hold a hearing to determine if you are owed what you say you are owed. If your employer still refuses to pay, the Department can apply to a state court to have the order enforced. In addition to receiving the wages you are owed, the Department may assess a penalty of up to 110% of the recovered money, which you will also receive.
Do not delay in contacting the Department of Labor and Industry to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of wage-and-hour violations must be filed. In order for this agency to act on your behalf, you must file a claim within 180 days of default or delay in paying wages. Once you have filed, you can recover wages and penalties for the two years prior to the date on which the claim is filed; if you no longer are employed by the employer who denied you your wages, then you can recover for the last two years you were employed. In addition, if your employer has violated the wage-and-hour laws before, you can recover for wages for the three years prior to the date you filed, or, if you are no longer employed by your employer, the last three years that you worked. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible, but it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the district and federal administrative agencies.
If you do not want to go through the Department of Labor and Industry, you can also file a suit in Montana state court; you are not required to go through the Department’s process first. If you sue in court, you are entitled to costs and attorney’s fees if you win. The same time deadlines explained above apply if you file in court.
Labor Standards Bureau
Wage & Hour Unit
1805 Prospect Avenue
PO Box 201503
Helena, MT 59620-1503
Phone: (406) 444-5600
You can call the Labor Standards Bureau’s Wage and Hour Unit at (406) 444-5600