DOL looks to roll back Trump's exemption for religious orgs in contracting

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The Labor Department office that regulates federal contractors is planning to roll back a Trump-era rule that exempts some religious organizations from anti-discrimination policies.

The rule, which the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) finalized on Dec. 9, allows federal contractors organized around faith-based activities to claim religious exemptions to discriminate against certain groups in hiring decisions.

According to court documents filed in two lawsuits opposing the rule, Biden administration officials in the office are seeking to rescind the rule.

The Labor Department filed motions on Feb. 9 and 10 to stay the suits for 90 days because they're planning to reverse the rule altogether. In both cases, the U.S. district court judges hearing the cases approved the stay motions.

"DOL writes to inform the Court that it intends to propose rescission of the rule at issue in this case in the near future, a process that is expected to take several months, as it will entail notice-and-comment rulemaking," says one of the motions filed in lawsuit coming from over 12 states.

Since the rule's proposal, civil rights groups have opposed it, warning that it could allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in particular.

Former OFCCP officials said the goal of the rule was to clarify vague policies and fully include religious organizations in federal contracting. It still would not allow discrimination on the basis of protected statuses, such as sexual orientation, race or disability status, said former OFCCP director Craig Leen at a Federalist Society event last month.

The move to rescind the rule comes weeks into a Biden-Harris administration that's already brought other changes into the office as well. The OFCCP has already implemented the Biden's rollback of a Trump executive order that banned certain types of diversity training among feds, contractors and federal grant recipients.

The office also has a new director, Jenny Yang, a former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Obama administration. In a public letter released on Feb. 11, Yang promised bold action.

"We have a chance to make the kind of transformative change in advancing racial equity that we have not seen since the 1960s," she wrote.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a staff writer at FCW covering the federal workforce. She is a recent graduate of Wake Forest University and has written for the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.


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