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U.S. Labor Department Proposes Expanding Religious Exemptions for Federal Contractors

    Client Alerts
  • August 28, 2019

On August 15, the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued proposed regulations that would expand some federal contractors’ ability to claim exemption from discrimination prohibitions. The proposal would allow awarding of federal contracts to religious organizations whose tenants result in refusal to hire certain people.

Specifically, religious organizations could condition employment on the applicant’s acceptance of beliefs (meaning that religion or its practices) that do not directly impact protected classifications such as race, sex, age, etc. The rule appears directed toward those organizations that do not hire LGBTQ people, as the current administration reversed earlier interpretations placing that status as protected under federal anti-discrimination laws.

The rule would also expand the definition of religious organizations beyond churches themselves to include all employers organized for a religious purpose. Religion would be defined to include not just religious beliefs but any part of religious practices or observances. OFCCP is accepting comments on the new rules through September 16.