Montana Labor Laws: Racial Discrimination


Area of Law: 


It's unfortunate that in this day and age racial discrimination still occurs in the workplace. Most employers do their best to make sure that their workplaces are fair to all employees, but sometimes, even the most well-intentioned employers will have policies that they do not realize are racially discriminating. Other situations, however, are not so innocent. Workplace discrimination can range from subtle hostilities in the work environment to decisions obviously being made based on racial profiling. If you feel that you have been affected by racial discrimination in your workplace, it's important to know how to proceed so that your claim can be handled in an efficient manner and won’t be dismissed due to any technical mistakes on your part.


Although all workers in the United States are protected under the Civil Rights Act at the federal level, workers in Montana are also protected by the Montana Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on race, country of national origin, and skin color. This means that employees in Montana can file a racial discrimination claim either at the federal level with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or at the state level with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's Human Rights Bureau (HRB). If you are not sure which agency to file with, don't worry because both agencies work together to process claims, so when you file with one agency, you can ask to cross-file with the other agency as well.


There are some cases, however, where the EEOC has no jurisdiction, and you will have to file at the state level. For example, the EEOC only handles cases where the employer has at least 15 employees. Therefore, if your workplace has fewer than 15 employees, you have no choice but to file at the state level.  There may be other benefits to filing at the state level though, and your lawyer can advise you as to which agency is the best for you to move your case forward.


It's important to remember that you do not have an indefinite amount of time to file your claim.  Both the EEOC and the HRB require that you file your complaint within 180 days from the date you believe you were discriminated against. If you miss this deadline, it is very likely that your claim will be deemed invalid. There may also be other legal deadlines that you are up against, so it's important to file your complaint as soon as possible. Once you have filed a complaint, the relevant agency will investigate your claim and either come to a decision regarding your right to sue or offer to send your case into mediation. Not only does mediation save both sides from an expensive and lengthy court procedure, it also helps to keep the courts free for other cases. Additionally, many people find that mediation is less stressful because they can resolve their cases without having to take them in front of a judge.