Lawsuit challenges Montana ban on employer vaccine mandates

Lawsuit challenges Montana ban on employer vaccine mandates
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A lawsuit brought on by the Montana Medical Association is challenging the state's ban on employer vaccine mandates. 

The association, along with other hospitals and patient groups, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against sate Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau over House Bill 702, which banned employers from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, alleges the bill violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Occupational Safety and Heath Act regulations, a right to a safe work environment and equal protection laws. 

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It “directly prohibits physician offices from following long-held evidence-based practices that create the safest environment possible for our patients and employees. This includes the ability to take reasonable mitigation steps if an employee has not been,” the Montana Medical Association said in a statement Thursday. 

“To be clear, HB 702, while passed in the context of COVID-19, has wide-ranging impacts outside of the current pandemic,” it added.

Employer vaccine mandates have been implemented around the country since the delta variant has caused cases to rise — and since the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. 

However, some Republican states have gone after such mandates, saying an employer should not be allowed to require an individual to get a vaccine. 

“Attorney General Knudsen ... is committed to protecting Montanan’s right to privacy and their ability to make their own health care decisions," Knudsen's spokesperson Emilee Cantrell said in a statement Thursday.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Greg Gianfore said the governor's office “generally doesn’t comment on ongoing or pending litigation, but ultimately what this comes down to is that no Montanan should be discriminated against based on his or her vaccination status.” “While we will not mandate vaccination in Montana, the governor will continue encouraging Montanans to talk with their doctor or pharmacist and get vaccinated, because vaccines are safe, they work, and they can save lives,” the spokesperson added.

The lawsuit wants a permanent injunction on the law the governor signed and have it be declared invalid.