After hearing competing arguments from the state and a Hutterite colony, the high court in Montana made no immediate ruling on whether the state’s requirement that employers carry workers’ compensation insurance can be expanded to include religious organizations.
According to Wikipedia, Hutterites are a communal branch of Anabaptipts who, like the Amish and Mennonites, trace their roots to the Radical Reformation of the 16th century. They live a life centered on their religion and live in German-speaking communities in the United States and Canada. The Hutterites in rural Montana are fighting state attempts to implement the legislation backed by businesses—which say they can’t outbid the low cost of communal employees.
A state judge has ruled that the law from 2009 that expanded the workers’ comp law to force Hutterites to pay for the insurance violated their right to freely exercise their religion. The state of Montana is asking the high court to change that decision and is arguing the new law only deals with commercial activities and does not include Hutterite religious affairs.
Hutterites do not pay wages. In addition, they don’t enlist in the military or vote. They build their own buildings, and make their own food and clothing. They contribute all of their labor to their colony. They are primarily agricultural producers. Men dress in black jackets and women wear colorful dresses. In recent years, Hutterites have grown in the area of construction due to the fact they can offer lower job bids than many private businesses. Those businesses backed the 2009 bill that expanded Montana’s workers’ comp law. The bill was created out of the need to create “a fair playing field” for other businesses that have to pay for insurance.
There has been no ruling following these arguments.
Modern Business Associates is an HR company that focuses on payroll and HR outsourcing. We routinely work with clients on workers’ comp issues. As a Professional Payroll and HR outsource organization, our clients rely on us to help them effectively deal with these kinds of topics.
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