39-29-104. Enforcement of preference. (1) An applicant who believes that the applicant is entitled to but has not been given the preference provided in 39-29-102 may, within 30 days of receipt of the notice of the hiring decision provided for in 39-29-103, submit to the public employer a written request for an explanation of the public employer's hiring decision. Within 15 days of receipt of the request, the public employer shall give the applicant a written explanation.
(2) After following the procedure described in subsection (1), the applicant may, within 90 days after receipt of notice of the hiring decision, file a petition in the district court in the county in which the application was received by the public employer. The petition must state facts that on their face entitle the applicant to a preference.
(3) (a) Upon filing of the petition, the court shall order the public employer to appear in court at a specified time not less than 5 or more than 10 days after the day the petition was filed and show cause why the applicant was not hired for the position. At the hearing, the public employer has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the public employer applied the preference under 39-29-102 and made a reasonable hiring decision. The applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the applicant is a preference-eligible applicant.
(b) The time to appear provided in subsection (3)(a) may be waived by stipulation of the parties. If a time to appear has been specified pursuant to subsection (3)(a), the court may, on motion of one of the parties or on stipulation of all of the parties, grant a continuance.
(c) If the public employer does not carry its burden of proof under subsection (3)(a) and the court finds that the applicant is a preference-eligible applicant, the court shall order the public employer to comply with the provisions of 39-29-102. In addition, the court shall, upon proper proof, grant an award of backpay, reasonable attorney fees, and costs.
(4) Failure of an applicant to file a petition under subsection (2) within 90 days bars the filing of a petition. If a public employer fails to provide an explanation under subsection (1) within 15 days and a petition is filed under subsection (2), the court shall order the public employer to comply with the provisions of 39-29-102.
(5) The Montana Rules of Civil Procedure apply to a proceeding under this section to the extent that they do not conflict with this section.