Montana Bans Vaccine Requirements For Employees

In Brief

  • The Facts:
    • A new law passed in Montana stops employers, including hospitals, from firing employees based on vaccine status.

    • The new law makes it impossible for any business providing goods and services to discriminate against customers based on vaccine status.

    • Some health care workers feel this is creating an unsafe hospital environment.

  • Reflect On:
    • Is COVID a large enough threat that vaccines are absolutely required?

    • Should the same guidelines be sent to those that are young and healthy as those who are at greater risk?

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The State of Montana has passed a law that bans employers from requiring a vaccine for employees to return to work in-person. The law also stops any business from denying services based on vaccine status or immunity passport access.

According to the bill, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for:

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  • A person or a governmental entity to refuse, withhold from, or deny to a person any local or state services, goods, facilities, advantages, privileges, licensing, educational opportunities, health care access, or employment opportunities based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport
  • An employer to refuse employment to a person, to bar a person from employment, or to discriminate against a person in compensation or in a term, condition, or privilege of employment based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport
  • A public accommodation to exclude, limit, segregate, refuse to serve, or otherwise discriminate against a person based on the person’s vaccination status or whether the person has an immunity passport.

The new law encourages employers to recommend the vaccine, and comes in light of the fact that many large companies across the U.S. have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be required for their employees to return to work in-person, like Facebook and Google, for example.

Hospitals in Montana, until recently, required their employees to get most vaccines approved by the Centers for Disease Control, including the annual flu shot, providing an avenue for employees to opt out for medical or religious reasons. There has been some pushback with regards to this new law.

For example, The Montana Hospital Association opposed the law before it took effect, warning that it would make it harder for the state to meet its need for medical services based on the fact it may deter healthcare workers from working in hospital settings as they did not feel safe environment was being provided. 

It holds us out as an anomaly against the rest of the nation. We have to rely on recruiting from out of state. The rest of the nation is looking at us and they are saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to practice in Montana, because of their approach to patient and employee safety as it relates to vaccinations.”

Rich Rasmussen, president of the Montana Hospital Association. AP News.

That being said, there are a plethora of scientists and physicians who disagree with the idea of mandating the vaccine for employees and requiring it for travel. Many have argued that these measures simply discourage people from getting vaccinated, and mandates completely ignore the science that’s been published regarding protection from COVID through natural infection.

The suspicious thing is that the doctors and scientists who have shared these beliefs have been heavily censored and largely unacknowledged.

A recent article published in the British Medical Journal by journalist Laurie Clarke has highlighted the fact that Facebook has already removed at least 16 million pieces of content from its platform and added warnings to approximately 167 million others. YouTube has removed nearly 1 million videos related to, according to them, “dangerous or misleading covid-19 medical information.” She explains how many scientist and doctors have been caught in this dragnet.

I wanted to leave you with an excerpt from a recent article The Pulse published by our resident lawyer David Helfrich. It provides more in terms of mandatory vaccine requirements.

“Before any vaccine passport system can be equitably rolled out, the problem of universal access must be solved. Even in high-income countries where an inordinate amount of resources have been thrown at vaccine rollout efforts to ensure wide access, alarming health disparities based on race continues to persist. In the US, Black and Brown communities continue to have lower SARS-CoV-2 vaccine rates compared to the overall population, and their historic (and often well-founded) distrust of the for-profit health system should not prevent them from enjoying basic rights, accessing opportunity, and engaging in much needed social activity after over a year of isolation and lockdowns that have taken a toll on our collective physical/mental health and well-being.

Additionally, vaccine passports pose significant privacy concerns and raise a myriad of complex problems and moral conundrums as it pertains to civil liberties, surveillance, and mobility that aren’t easily resolved. From Verizon’s attempt to deploy thermal cameras to detect fevers in football stadiums to New York’s IBM “Excelsior Pass” app that leverages blockchain technology to prove that you’ve been vaccinated, tech companies are scrambling to cash out on innovative ways to peer into our private lives while undermining our civil liberties. Without a strong commitment to legal protections for privacy, the data that will be collected by big tech companies every time our vaccine passport credentials are shared will inevitably be sold for commercial purposes and even shared with law enforcement, which would lead to further burdens on over-policed communities. The prospect of being tracked in this manner would not only further isolate communities that should be encouraged to access public benefits and spaces, but could also presumably further undermine public confidence in even getting the vaccine to begin with.”

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