Sidney law firm sues over vaccination prohibition

By: - October 6, 2021 3:11 pm

Asserting Montanans’ constitutional right to “a clean and healthful environment,” the Netzer Law Office is suing Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Commissioner of Labor and Industry Laurie Esau over House Bill 702, which prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status.

“Netzer Law has a duty to provide a clean and healthy environment to its employees, potential employees, clients, potential clients, and other third-parties that may enter its offices,” said the complaint filed in Richland County District Court in Montana.

The Netzer firm has offices in Sidney and Billings, according to the Oct. 5 complaint. Filed by Joel Krautter of the Netzer firm, the lawsuit notes HB702 prevents the business from providing a safe and clean space and alleges it is unconstitutional on its face. 

“Netzer Law has employees and clients who represent a broad cross section of Montanans and include elderly and immunocompromised individuals,” the lawsuit said.

The complaint notes unvaccinated employees are more likely to spread infectious diseases, included but not limited to the COVID-19 virus. It also points out that some organizations, such as nursing homes and long-term care facilities, are exempt from the prohibitions in the bill, but not the law firm.

As a result, Netzer employees face an increased risk to their health and safety, the lawsuit said. The complaint notes the result can be harmful to employees and bad for business.

“Employees who contract COVID-19 or some other infectious disease and miss work can cause substantial economic harm to both themselves and their employer,” the lawsuit said.

The complaint notes cases are climbing in Montana, the virus can be deadly, Gov. Greg Gianforte has sent National Guard members to help the clinic in Sidney, and as of August 28, 86.9 percent of people hospitalized in Montana for COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated.

“Montana HB702 impedes Netzer Law from maintaining a healthful environment for its employees,” the complaint said.

The lawsuit also said the bill “does not advance any state interest, nor is it tailored to the advancement of any state interest.”

Krautter is a former Republican member of the Montana House of Representatives, having served District 35.

In September, the Montana Medical Association and several other health organizations also asked a judge to invalidate recently passed legislation that bars hospitals from requiring employees to be vaccinated. Filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, the lawsuit argues HB702 unconstitutionally prevents hospitals from guaranteeing a safe environment for patients.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. In Montana since 1998, she loves hiking in Glacier National Park, wandering the grounds of the Archie Bray and sitting on her front porch with friends. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana. She worked there from 2006 to 2020. As a Missoulian reporter, she was named a co-fellow by the Education Writers Association to report on a series about economic mobility; grantee of the Society of Environmental Journalists for a project on conservation from the U.S. to Africa; and Kiplinger Fellow in Digital Media and Public Affairs Journalism. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune and Missoula Independent, and she earned her master’s in journalism from the University of Montana. She lives in Missoula with her husband, Brock, who is also her favorite chef, and her pup, Henry, who is her favorite adventure companion. She believes she deserves to wear the T-shirt with this saying: “World’s most mediocre runner.”