Among the many controversial vaccine laws passed throughout the United States in the past year, one law has stood out. It’s a state-level law that prevents employers from discriminating against employees who don’t have vaccinations.
The Montana law was approved with strong support from Republican lawmakers. However, the law has been criticized for creating confusion in the health care industry. For example, health care providers and nurses are unsure whether they can comply with the law. It’s also been challenged by individuals and physicians.
The controversy over Montana’s vaccine law isn’t just about the state’s anti-discrimination ban. There’s also a separate lawsuit filed by the Montana Medical Association, which contends the law is unconstitutional. The state is defending against this lawsuit in a federal court. While this lawsuit may end up being rejected, the state has its hands full defending against another challenge in a different court.
This case has drawn attention to the fact that healthcare staffing shortages are a problem in rural communities. In order to maintain the quality of care, health care providers must be able to work in an environment that is free of communicable disease. When this happens, the health of patients can be compromised.
As part of the fight against the federal vaccine mandate, several provider organizations have begun rolling back internal vaccination requirements. Intermountain Healthcare is just one of those groups. While most caregivers have complied with the requirement, the health system is encouraging the remaining workers to get the shots. In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the health system will temporarily pause its requirement.
It’s not uncommon for businesses to try to avoid taking a public stance on vaccinations. They don’t want to be seen as siding with a group of politicians or causing unnecessary confusion for potential customers. In addition, instituting a vaccine requirement can lead to unwanted attention. In this case, a lawyer has argued that the employer’s right to a clean and safe workplace does not depend on requiring vaccinations.
The Montana Medical Association is leading the lawsuit against the state’s vaccine mandate. They argue the law is unconstitutional, and it prevents a safe patient environment. A separate court has ruled that the law is invalid as it applies to medical offices.
Despite this, the state’s legislature has decided to defend against a second lawsuit, which argues the law isn’t constitutional. The Department of Health and Human Services has filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
The governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, has also signed an executive order to prohibit local governments from requiring vaccinations for employees. He’s also allowed state employees to opt out of the vaccine requirement, a move that will affect some private sector workers. The law will also block local and state agencies from requiring employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the CMS rule was more about federal administrative power, than individual rights. The conservative majority of the court ruled that the Occupational Safety and Health administration does not have the authority to require vaccinations for employees. It’s unlikely the ruling will be upheld in a higher court, but it will at least make it easier for states to implement anti-mandate laws.