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Federal judge says ‘vaccine discrimination’ law unconstitutional regarding health care facilities



Helena, Montana – The “vaccine discrimination” law in Montana has been partially overturned by a federal judge who ruled that it violates the constitution when applied to employers and staff members of healthcare facilities.

In effect, Montana’s HB 702 forbids employers from requesting any form of vaccination in order to hire a person by prohibiting them from discriminating against a person based on their vaccination status.

The Montana Medical Association, Montana Nurses Association, a number of medical facilities, and impacted individuals challenged the law saying it “jeopardizes physicians’ ability to maintain best practices now in place for protecting patients and staff from vaccine-preventable diseases” and alleged the law is unconstitutional in regards to health care facilities.

Judge Donald W. Molloy of the United States District Court for the District of Montana ruled that HB 702 violates the regulations of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. In accordance with the equal protection provisions of the Montana and US constitutions as well as the Montana Constitution’s section on inalienable rights, he further determined that it was unconstitutional.

Molloy emphasized that the Americans with Disabilities Act compels companies to take reasonable accommodations into account when establishing a safe work environment for all employees, including those who are immunocompromised.

“Deprived by law of the ability to require vaccination or immunity status of an employee, a health care employer is not able to properly consider possible reasonable accommodation if an employee asks to limit his or her exposure to unvaccinated individuals,” wrote Molloy in his ruling.

Molloy further went on to state HB 702 “removes an essential tool from the health care provider’s toolbox to stop or minimize the risk of spreading vaccine-preventable disease.”

On party-line votes in both chambers, the Republican-backed HB 702 was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2021, and on May 7 that year, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed it into law. The COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employers and organizations sparked a heated local and national discussion at the time the measure was introduced.

Plaintiffs asserted that HB 702 went far beyond COVID-19 concerns, pointing that hospitals routinely forced certain personnel to receive vaccinations against diseases including influenza and hepatitis B before the pandemic.

“House Bill 702 and this case were never about just COVID. Hospitals and doctors’ offices should be able to make their own decisions about whether to require something like the MMR or hepatitis vaccine,” said Raph Graybill of Graybill Law Firm, PC, lead counsel for MNA. “The Court’s decision ensures that Montanans can obtain safe, quality healthcare without arbitrary government interference.”

The Montana Department of Justice is analyzing the judgment and deciding what to do next, according to a spokeswoman.

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