The Montana bill seeks to stop the job bias based on vaccine status


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HELENA, Mont. (AP) – The Montana legislature has passed a bill banning employers from requiring vaccines as a working condition – a measure that could prevent a Great Falls health care system from requiring its employees to receive COVID-19.

The bill makes it an illegal discriminatory practice for a person or government entity to deny services, goods, privileges, licenses, educational opportunities, or job opportunities based on the vaccination status or if someone has an immunity passport. .

He passed the House on Monday and now passes it to Republican government Greg Gianforte to consider him. He has not said whether he will sign the measure.

Supporters of the bill include some Health System Benefits employees in Great Falls, who were told they would have to receive COVID-19 vaccines to continue working.

“Currently, there is no state law in Montana that allows employers to require vaccines as a working condition because so far Montana employers have respected the fundamental, personal, medical, and religious freedoms of Montana residents,” said Republican Sen. Tom McGillvray from Billings last week to presenting the bill to the Senate.

“However, that is no longer the case,” he said. “There are employers … who require and force employees to get vaccinated under the threat of termination and intimidation.”

The bill still allows employers to strongly recommend vaccines and “does not in any way prevent any employer from taking reasonable safety precautions, as any current hospital does, with an employee who does not have grip fired, “Bill Manhattan Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson said Monday.

Under the bill, employers would not be allowed employees to receive vaccines that are distributed under emergency use authorization, under which the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the administration of COVID-19 shots.

Whitney Bania, a spokeswoman for Benefits Health System, declined to comment on the bill’s passage by the legislature.

Healthcare organizations were concerned about the language of the bill which says employers cannot discriminate against a person on a term, condition or privilege of employment based on the state of vaccination.

The Montana Hospital Association and other health organizations interpreted this as meaning that they could not take precautions, such as requiring an unvaccinated employee to wear a mask, and that they should therefore treat all employees as if they were not. vaccinated. This would lead to visit restrictions, the groups said.

“The language of the bill, as written, will prevent health centers from analyzing potential employees in the hiring process without violating the newly created discrimination provisions in the bill,” the association said. Montana Hospital.

The association also believes the bill would prohibit medical facilities from requiring vaccines for employees who have direct contact with patients and the public.

Republican Rep. Llew Jones of Conrad said he was also concerned about the bill until he spoke with Carlson, Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras and the CEO of Northern Rockies Medical Center at Cut Bank and received guarantees that the bill would not. cause limits on visits to hospitals and residences.

“We haven’t had that communication and we see the bill differently,” said Katy Peterson, a spokeswoman for the Montana Hospital Association, after the bill passed the House in its final reading.

The association consults lawyers.

“Our goal is to identify the steps needed to maintain compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, while mitigating the negative impacts on patient and staff safety,” the MHA said in a statement.

Hospital officials argue that the bill goes beyond addressing objections to COVID-19 vaccines.

The bill “discovers more than 50 years of medical science and expert guidance in protecting patients and health care workers from infectious diseases,” Rich Rasmussen, president and CEO of the Montana Hospital Association, told reporters.

Healthcare organizations had expected the bill to be amended to address only concerns about vaccination requirements against COVID-19.

One amendment clarifies that the bill does not affect vaccine requirements in schools and kindergartens, where people can apply for religious or medical exemptions from vaccines.

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