If you’ve been injured on the job in Montana and need to take time off work, you might be concerned about whether you will have a job to go back to. Like many states, Montana workers’ comp laws do not require your employer to hold your job for you while you’re out on workers’ comp leave. However, you do have some rights, including certain preferences in rehiring. (For recently injured employees, see our article on how to file a workers’ comp claim in Montana.)
In most states, including Montana, employees are not entitled to job-protection under workers’ compensation laws. Your employer is not required to hold your job open for you and may replace you or fire you while you’re out on workers’ comp leave. However, there is one major exception: It is illegal for your employer to fire you because of the fact that you have applied for or received workers’ comp benefits. However, as long as your termination is for a legitimate business reason—such as your company needing to get the work done—that is legal. (Montana is the only state that requires employers to have “good cause" for firing an employee who has completed an initial probationary period.)
Montana workers’ comp laws do give injured workers some rights, including a rehiring preference. If your doctor releases you to return to work within two years after your injury, your employer must give you preference over other applicants when you apply for a comparable position to your previous one. However, you must be qualified and physically able to perform the job.
A couple of federal laws might provide additional job protection, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The FMLA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for a serious health condition that prevents you from working. If you are able to return to work after those 12 weeks, your employer must return you to the same job, or similar one. (To learn more, including employee eligibility requirements for FMLA leave, see our article on Taking Family and Medical Leave.)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers with 15 or more employees to discriminate because of your disability. The ADA also requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities if it would allow them to do their jobs. (For a more in depth overview of the ADA, see our article on Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: An Overview of the ADA.) Montana has a similar law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability.