HELENA, Mont. (AP) – A Montana law firm is suing the state over a rule that prohibits companies from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees.
This is the second lawsuit challenging the only law in the United States which prevents employers from forcing workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Netzer Law Office, which has five employees and offices in Sidney and Billings, said the law passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature interferes with the “company’s choice to determine how best to provide a safe and healthy environment “. The law firm is represented in the lawsuit by Joel Krautter, a former Republican state lawmaker.
The law – which applies to all vaccinations – says that requiring vaccines as a condition of employment is discriminatory and violates state human rights laws.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Richland County District Court says the new law violates the Montana Constitution, which guarantees the right to “a clean and healthy environment.” In addition to asking that the law be found unconstitutional, the plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction suspending the application of the law while the court challenge is pending.
The lawsuit names Republican State Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Labor and Industry Commissioner Laurie Esau as defendants.
“Attorney General Knudsen will defend Montana law. No one should be treated any differently because of their immunization status, ”said spokesperson Emilee Cantrell.
Esau’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A lawsuit challenging the same law was filed last month by medical providers and Montana residents with compromised immune systems, who argued the law violated federal safe workplaces requirements. and reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.
Last month, President Joe Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write a rule requiring employers with 100 or more workers to require that they get vaccinated. against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has said he will challenge this rule, calling it illegal and anti-American. The Republican encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but maintained it should be a voluntary decision.
The court challenge filed this week comes as Montana faces one of the highest rates of new coronavirus infections in the country. State health officials on Tuesday reported more than 1,300 new cases and a total of 11,550 active cases.
More than 2,000 Montana residents have died from the respiratory virus since the start of the pandemic.
Samuels is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.