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Second lawsuit filed to invalidate MT’s ban on requiring vaccinated employees

Applies to all businesses -- not just medical ones
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Posted at 12:14 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 20:28:09-04

SIDNEY — A second, broader lawsuit has been filed to strike down Montana’s controversial law that bars businesses or other employers from requiring employees to be vaccinated.

The suit, filed Tuesday in state District Court by a law firm with offices in Sidney and Billings, says the new law violates constitutional guarantees to a clean and healthful environment, by prohibiting employers from ensuring their workers and customers are protected from communicable disease.

Because Netzer Law is prohibited from requiring employees to be vaccinated, it is “legally prohibited from taking measure to protect its employees from coming into contact with unvaccinated fellow employees or potential new employees that are unvaccinated, or from unvaccinated members of the public wishing to use their services,” the suit said.

It asks the state District Court in Sidney to declare the law unconstitutional and issue an injunction blocking the law’s enforcement.

The law “burdens the fundamental right to a safe and healthy environment and does not advance any state interest, nor is it tailored to the advancement of any state interest,” the suit said.

The suit was filed by one of Netzer Law’s attorneys, former state Rep. Joel Krautter, a Republican from Sidney.

The lawsuit comes two weeks after a coalition of medical providers and patients filed a similar suit in federal court in Missoula, seeking to strike down portions of the same law.

However, the Sept. 22 lawsuit said the law should be invalidated only for hospitals and medical offices where physicians work.

The suit filed Tuesday asks to strike down the law in its entirety, as it applies to any business.

Republican majorities at the 2021 Legislature enacted the law by passing House Bill 702, which was signed by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. No Democrats voted for the bill.

HB702 says no employer can require any employee or refuse employment to anyone based on their vaccination status, for any disease.

It also prohibits businesses and any “governmental entity” from withholding or denying any services or facilities to anyone based on their vaccination status.

The law has exceptions for schools, day-care centers, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The Netzer lawsuit said the new law violates equal-protection language in the state constitution, because it treats the law firm and other businesses differently than the entities given exceptions.

The suit names Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and state Labor Commissioner Laurie Esau as defendants.

Read the full complaint below.