Montana Code Annotated 2023



Part 5. Enforcement

Informal Investigation -- Conciliation -- Findings

49-2-504. Informal investigation -- conciliation -- findings. (1) The department shall informally investigate the matters set out in the complaint promptly and impartially to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that the allegations are supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

(2) (a) During the informal investigation process and before the department issues a finding under subsection (7), the department may attempt to resolve the complaint by mediation.

(b) If the parties to the complaint voluntarily agree to enter into the mediation process, the time period for the department to complete the informal investigation and issue a finding under subsection (7) may be extended up to 45 days. An agreement to enter into mediation serves to extend the time for hearing beyond 12 months as provided for in 49-2-505(2).

(c) If the department makes a finding under subsection (7)(c) that there is reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred, the department shall attempt to resolve the complaint by conciliation in a manner that, in addition to providing redress for the complaint, includes conditions that eliminate the discriminatory practice, if any, found in the investigation.

(3) The department shall, within 10 business days following receipt of a filed complaint, notify a respondent that the respondent is the subject of a filed complaint. The notification must be in writing and must include a copy of the filed complaint. If requested, the department shall also provide the parties with all other information related to the complaint in the possession of the department that is not currently in the possession of the parties or a party. The department shall make known to the parties the fact that information is available upon request. The department may not investigate a complaint until it has received notice that the respondent has received the department's notification of the complaint.

(4) If the department determines that the inclusion of documents or information obtained by the department would seriously impede the rights of a person or the proper investigation of the complaint, the information may be excluded from the notification by providing a written summary of the information. The written summary must include sufficient information to give maximum effect to the intent of this chapter.

(5) The respondent shall file an answer to a complaint filed with the department within 10 business days of the respondent's receipt of the complaint. An answer may be a response simply admitting or denying the allegations without further specificity or requesting additional information from the department. The time for filing an answer may be extended by a showing of good cause.

(6) The department shall commence proceedings within 30 days after receipt of a complaint.

(7) (a) After the informal investigation, the department shall issue a finding on whether there is reasonable cause to believe that a preponderance of the evidence supports the charging party's allegation of unlawful discrimination. Unless the time period is extended as provided in subsection (2)(b), the finding must be issued within 180 days after a complaint is filed, except that the department shall issue the finding within 120 days after a complaint is filed under 49-2-305.

(b) If the department finds that there is no reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred, it shall issue a notice of dismissal and dismiss the case from the department's administrative process. After receipt of a notice of dismissal, a charging party may:

(i) continue the administrative process by filing objections with the commission as provided in 49-2-511; or

(ii) discontinue the administrative process and commence proceedings in district court as provided in 49-2-511.

(c) If the department finds that there is reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred and conciliation efforts are unsuccessful, the department shall certify the complaint for hearing pursuant to 49-2-505.

History: En. 64-308 by Sec. 5, Ch. 283, L. 1974; amd. Sec. 6, Ch. 524, L. 1975; R.C.M. 1947, 64-308(4); amd. Sec. 9, Ch. 467, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 28, L. 2007; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 205, L. 2011.