Protected Classes & Prohibited Discrimination

The University of Montana supports a diverse community accepting of all individuals regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, age, political ideas, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Protected Classes

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate against an individual based on that individual’s age.  Age discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s age.   

The University does not discriminate against any individual in the terms and conditions of employment based on that person’s age.  Nor does the University classify or segregate employees in any way that would adversely affect his or her status as an employee based on that person’s age.  

Pursuant to Montana statutory law and the Montana Constitution, the University recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of American Indians. The University is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.

Montana Constitution

Indian Education For All

Board of Regents Policy

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate on the basis of an individual’s physical or mental disability. The United States Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to combat discrimination based on disability. In Montana, the Montana Human Rights Act serves the same purpose. Disability discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s actual disability, because of that individual’s record of having a disability, or because that individual is regarded as having a disability. Discrimination also includes the failure to make reasonable accommodations that are required by a person with a disability. Retaliation against a student requesting a reasonable accommodation is prohibited.

The University will make reasonable accommodations or program modifications as appropriate to remove any barriers that may exist for an individual with a disability.  

However, the University is not required to provide accommodations that would result in an undue hardship to the University.  An undue hardship is “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.”  

It is the disabled individual’s responsibility to begin the reasonable accommodation discussion, and the University’s responsibility to engage in a good-faith interaction with the individual, so that both parties can cooperate to develop a reasonable accommodation.

Students who have a disability should contact Disability Services for Students (DSS) at (406) 243-2243 or dss@umontana.edu. DSS is located in Room 154 in the Lommasson Center.

Employees who believe they need a reasonable accommodation for a disability should contact Cindy Boies in Human Resource Services at (406) 243-2286. Human Resource Services is located in Room 252 in the Lommasson Center.

Individuals who have a concern about access for individuals with disabilities at the University may contact the ADA/504 Team.

Gender Identity/Transgender Status

The University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of that person’s gender identity.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center website defines the term “transgender” as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people.”

Under both federal and Montana law, discrimination on the basis of an individual’s gender identity or status as a transgender person has traditionally not been prohibited. However, the status of the law is evolving. Recently, some courts have determined that, in certain circumstances, discrimination against a person because of the person’s gender identity may be prohibited. These court decisions involve facts particular to each case, and only a complete factual investigation can determine whether unlawful discrimination on the basis of gender identity has occurred.

Unisex or Gender-Neutral Restrooms on Mountain Campus

Pursuant to Montana law and University of Montana policy, the University does not discriminate on the basis of marital or family status.  Discrimination based on marital or family status is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual's marital or family status.

The Montana Supreme Court has recognized that the term "marital status" encompasses an individual's status as being married, unmarried, divorced, or widowed, as well as the identity and occupation of an individual’s spouse.

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate on the basis of national origin.  National origin discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s national origin.  As described by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this type of discrimination occurs when an individual is treated unfavorably because he or she is, or appears to be, of a certain ethnic background or from a certain country or part of the world.  Discrimination on the basis of an individual’s accent is also forbidden, unless the individual’s accent is so heavy that it hinders the communication necessary to perform a particular job effectively.

As the EEOC points out, national origin discrimination is not necessarily isolated to unfair treatment of an individual because of that individual’s national origin, but can also occur when the individual is subject to discrimination because he or she is married to or associated with a person of a certain national origin.

The University does not discriminate on the basis of national origin, but it does have the right to verify that an employee is authorized to work in the United States.

Pursuant to Montana law and University of Montana policy, the University does not discriminate on the basis of political beliefs. This type of discrimination involves the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s political beliefs.

For example, the University does not discriminate against an individual because that individual belongs to a certain political party.

Pursuant to federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate on the basis of pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Discrimination in this context occurs when there is no legitimate reason for such disparate treatment.

For employees, in compliance with the Montana Human Rights Act, the University will not:

  1. terminate a woman's employment because of the woman's pregnancy;

  2. refuse to grant to the employee a reasonable leave of absence for the pregnancy;

  3. deny to the employee who is disabled as a result of pregnancy any compensation to which the employee is entitled as a result of the accumulation of disability or leave benefits accrued pursuant to plans maintained by the employer, provided that the employer may require disability as a result of pregnancy to be verified by medical certification that the employee is not able to perform employment duties; or

  4. require that an employee take a mandatory maternity leave for an unreasonable length of time.

Further, upon the employee’s signifying an intent to return at the end of a pregnancy-related leave of absence, the University will reinstate the employee to the employee’s original job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits, and other service credits.

Discrimination on the basis of race or color is prohibited under both federal and Montana law. This means the University does not discriminate against an individual seeking admission as a student, or an enrolled student, in the terms, conditions, or privileges of the University on the basis of race or color.

Likewise, the University does not refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against a person in terms of compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment on the basis of race or color.  Nor does the University limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way that would deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the individual’s employment status on the basis of race or color.

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines race discrimination as when an individual is treated unfavorably because the individual is of a certain race, or because the individual possesses traits or features associated with race, such as hair texture, skin color, or particular facial features. Color discrimination happens when an individual is treated unfavorably because of skin color or complexion.

The EEOC further explains that race or color discrimination is not necessarily isolated to unfavorable treatment of an individual because of the individual’s race or color, but can also occur when the individual is subject to discrimination because he or she is married to or associated with a person of a certain race or color.

Discrimination can occur even when the victim and perpetrator are of the same race or color.

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate on the basis of religion. Religious discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s religion. The term “religion” includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as religious belief.

Protection is not limited to traditional or organized religions. As explained by the United States Supreme Court:

Religious experiences which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others. Local boards and courts in this sense are not free to reject beliefs because they consider them “incomprehensible.” Their task is to decide whether the beliefs possessed are sincerely held and whether they are, in [the individual’s] own scheme of things, religious.

However, a belief that functions as a mere personal preference is not protected.

Generally the University must reasonably accommodate an individual’s religious observances, practices, and beliefs. However, the University has no duty to do so if the accommodation would cause an undue hardship.

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sex. Sex discrimination is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s sex.

For example, discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment, such as compensating one sex more than the other for jobs which require the same skill, effort and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions, is prohibited.

Also, discrimination on the basis of a characteristic that is either exclusive to or predominantly associated with one sex, such as pregnancy, is prohibited. Discrimination based on pregnancy is specifically discussed under a separate link.

While, generally, different treatment on the basis of sex is prohibited, it can be allowed in employment if the different treatment is “a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operations” of the University. This, however, is a narrow exception.

Pursuant to University policy, the University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of that person’s sexual orientation. Discrimination based on sexual orientation is the denial of privileges or benefits of education or employment, or the denial of the opportunity to participate in university activities, because of an individual’s sexual orientation.

The American Heritage College Dictionary defines “sexual orientation” as “the direction of one’s sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes.”

Gender Identity/Transgender Status

The University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of that person’s gender identity.

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center website defines the term “transgender” as “an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people.”

Under both federal and Montana law, discrimination on the basis of an individual’s gender identity or status as a transgender person has traditionally not been prohibited. However, the status of the law is evolving. Recently, some courts have determined that, in certain circumstances, discrimination against a person because of the person’s gender identity may be prohibited. These court decisions involve facts particular to each case, and only a complete factual investigation can determine whether unlawful discrimination on the basis of gender identity has occurred.

Veteran Discrimination Statement

Pursuant to both federal and Montana law, and University of Montana policy, the University does not discriminate on the basis of military affiliation.  Veteran discrimination is when an individual is denied the privileges or benefits of education or employment, or is denied the opportunity to participate in university activities, based on the individual's past, present, or potential military service.

This type of discrimination occurs when an individual receives unfavorable treatment because he or she served on active duty in the military, military reserve, or National Guard during a war, campaign, or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized. Discrimination based on an individual's current membership in the military, military reserve, or National Guard or discrimination based on an individual's future military service obligations is also prohibited.

Veteran discrimination may also occur when an individual receives unfavorable treatment because he or she is married to or associated with a person who is or was a member of the military services.

The University takes affirmative action to employ, advance in employment, and retain veterans.

Websites:

Federal & State Laws:

  • The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). 38 U.S.C. § 4211 et seq.

  • Federal Regulations. 41 C.F.R. part 60-250.

  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA). 20 C.F.R. Part 1002.

  • Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 (VBIA), Pub. L. 108-454 (Dec. 10, 2004), 38 U.S.C. § 4334.

  • Montana Veterans' Public Employment Preference. Mont. Code Ann. § 39-29-101 et seq. (2010); Admin. R. Mont. 2.21.3602 et seq.

Prohibited Discrimination

Pursuant to federal and Montana law and University policy, the University prohibits retaliation against a person for bringing a discrimination complaint, for assisting someone with a discrimination complaint, or for participating in an investigation or resolution of a discrimination complaint. The University recognizes that its ability to effectively enforce anti-discrimination policies depends on whether employees and students feel free to raise concerns about discrimination. Hence, employees and students making discrimination complaints are protected from retaliation, even if no policy violation results from an investigation.

Retaliation is any action that might discourage a reasonable employee or student from raising concerns about discriminatory conduct. It occurs when an individual's report, complaint, or good faith cooperation with a complaint of discrimination forms the basis for an adverse decision concerning the individual's employment or student position or status. Examples of retaliation include the involuntary transfer or dismissal of an employee, being demoted or denied a promotion, or being denied an appropriate grade. Whether an action rises to the level of retaliation will depend on the particular circumstances. A person's decision to report discriminatory behavior does not protect that person from the minor annoyances or another's lack of good manners that may take place at work or school because those actions will not prevent an ordinary person from reporting concerns.

University administrators, faculty, employees, or students who retaliate in any way against an individual who has brought a complaint pursuant to this policy or an individual who has participated in an investigation of such a complaint is subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

If you believe that you are the subject of such retaliation, you should immediately contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

Harassment based on an individual's membership in a protected class is a form of prohibited discrimination under federal and Montana law and University policy. Protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, creed, service in the uniformed services (as defined in state and federal law), veteran status, sex, age, political ideas, marital or family status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

To be considered unlawful harassment, conduct must occur that creates a hostile work or educational environment, and must be directed at an individual because of his or her membership in a protected class of people. A hostile environment is created when conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual's work or academic performance or participation in UM activities, or when a reasonable person would find the conduct sufficiently offensive. Conduct constituting harassment includes bullying, humiliating, intimidating, or other types of abusive behavior designed to make a person feel degraded because of their membership in a protected class. Stalking and hazing may also constitute harassment. Harassing conduct may be in the form of verbal comments, aggressive actions, or repeated gestures. The conduct may be communicated electronically, in person, or by other means. However, constitutionally protected expression is not considered harassment under this policy. Generally, a few isolated incidents do not rise to the level of an unlawful hostile work or educational environment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a particular form of harassment and is strictly prohibited. This type of harassment can occur by conduct that creates a hostile work environment or when tangible benefits are directly tied to an individual's submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual conduct. Conduct creating a hostile, intimidating, or offensive environment includes subjecting an individual to unwelcome sexual comments, unwelcome physical contact, or offensive sexual materials as a regular part of the work or educational environment. Whether the conduct amounts to sexual harassment is determined from the perspective of an objectively reasonable person of the same gender in the same situation.

Sexual harassment also occurs when tangible benefits are directly tied to an individual's submission to or rejection of unwelcome sexual conduct. This type of sexual harassment is sometimes referred to as "quid-pro-quo" and can be either express or implied. It only occurs in supervisor/employee or professor/student relationships; e.g., threatening to fire someone for failure to engage in sexual relations, or promising a better grade in exchange for sexual favors.


The University's goal and obligation is to end harassing behavior before it rises to the level of breaking the law. The University will take immediate action to end harassing behavior, including appropriate disciplinary action, when instances of harassment are identified and confirmed. Supervisors who ignore or fail to report incidents of harassment will also be subject to discipline.  Retaliation against persons complaining about harassment or those who provide information about a claim of harassment also violates laws prohibiting discrimination and will lead to disciplinary action against offenders. Individuals should report harassment to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action in accordance with the Discrimination Grievance Procedure.

The University of Montana Student Advocacy Resource Center (SARC) provides free and confidential support services to University students who have experienced sexual harassment or other forms of sexual violence. Students can locate SARC in the Curry Health Center, Room 108. SARC's 24-hour free and confidential support line is 406-243-6559.

Tips for Targets of Sexual Harassment

Being the target of sexually harassing behavior may make you feel embarrassed, angry, isolated, confused, or helpless. When inappropriate behavior becomes routine, it can affect your quality of life. If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can take the following steps:

  • Document the incidents. Write down the date, time, and location, exactly what happened and what was said, and any witnesses. Include any attempts you made to make it clear the behavior was unwelcome, and include how the behavior made you feel.

  • Tell the harasser that their behavior or comments are unwelcome and that you want them to stop.

  • Write a letter or email to the harasser identifying their inappropriate behavior and informing them that if that behavior doesn't stop, you will file a formal grievance against them.

  • Schedule an appointment with the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to talk about the behavior you are experiencing. EO/AA can handle your complaint informally and provide you with resources on how to deal with the situation, or you may choose to file a formal grievance. EO/AA will guide you through the process.

Could I be a Sexual Harasser?

Persons accused of sexual harassment are often surprised to learn that someone has viewed their behavior or comments as offensive. If you have been accused of sexual harassment or worry that you may be accused of sexual harassment, you may want to review your behavior by considering the following points:

  • Do not assume that colleagues, peers, employees, or students are flattered by comments about their appearance, requests to go on a date, or questions about their relationships.

  • Do not assume that colleagues, peers, employees, or students enjoy being touched (including hugs, massages, playful patting).

  • Do not assume that colleagues, peers, employees, or students enjoy sexually oriented comments, jokes, or stories.

  • Do not assume that others will tell you they are offended or feel harassed by what you say and do, especially if you are in a position of power over them.

  • Do not assume that your colleagues, peers, employees, or students enjoy emails or internet sites that contain sexual jokes or innuendoes.  Creating or forwarding the email can be just as offensive as if you had uttered the words yourself.

  • Consider whether you base your behavior (i.e., comments, decisions) on stereotypes of others. Review your behavior and make sure it is sex-neutral and free of bias.

  • Consider the impact that you could have on others' attitudes toward their work, education, and self-esteem.

  • Consider how others respond to what you say and do.

  • Consider whether differences in culture, religion, or background might make someone uncomfortable with your actions.

  • Consider and understand that unwelcome sexual humor and innuendoes may violate the University’s sexual harassment policy.

  • If you have any doubts as to your behavior, ask yourself:

    • whether you would like someone to do the same to your wife/husband/partner, daughter/son, mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, or another considered close to you;

    • whether you would like to see a picture of yourself and a description of the behavior on the front page of the newspaper.

If you answer "NO" to either of these questions, odds are you should refrain from the behavior.

  • Ask yourself many of these same questions with respect to behavior related to race, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, sex, marital status, disability, or status as a U.S. veteran.

  • Remember that it is not the intent behind the behavior that matters, but rather the impact the behavior has on the person who is offended by the behavior.

If you have questions about what behaviors may constitute sexual harassment, please contact the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action at 243-5710 or eoaa@umontana.edu.