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Montana’s Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act- AMENDED!

The Wrongful Discharge Act from Employment Act (WDEA) was originally enacted in 1987.  The intent of the Act was to balance an employee’s need for protection from wrongful termination and the employer’s need for protection from substandard employee performance and/or behavior.  Under the Act, an employee is not “at-will” after successfully completing a probationary period.  This means the employee can only be terminated for good cause.

House Bill 254, recently signed into law, amends the original Act.  Here are the highlights:

What should an employer do now?  Consider amending your probationary policy in your employee handbook to 12 months; reserving the right to extend probation an additional 6 months.  Educate employees to the amended policy, and have employees sign a new acknowledgment or a copy of the individual policy.  Employers are not required to enact a one-year probationary period, but why would we not want to take advantage of a longer “at-will” period to make a good decision on our new hires?

The information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice, nor is this article an all-inclusive overview of the Act.  Future case law will also play a part in how the Act is interpreted.  You are encouraged to research Montana House Bill 254 to learn more, or members may call Associated Employer’s hot line at 406.248.6178 to speak with an HR Business Partner.

Written by: Bryan Peterson