A proposal by a U.S. Department of Labor division to rescind a Trump-era rule that expanded religious exemptions for federal contractors related to anti-discrimination laws was published in the Federal Register Nov. 9.
The rule, which has been in effect since Jan. 8, was in response to a directive put forth under the Obama administration that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected employment classes.
When finalizing the rule in December 2020, the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) said the rule was needed to address concerns of religious organizations that were reluctant to participate as federal contractors due to uncertainty about religious exemptions in the Obama mandate. Some commentators stated the rule was “necessary to ensure that religious entities could contract with the federal government without compromising their religious identities or missions,” OFCCP stated at the time.
“This rule is intended to correct any misperception that religious organizations are disfavored in government contracting by setting forth appropriate protections for their autonomy to hire employees who will further their religious missions,” the OFCCP further clarified, “thereby providing clarity that may expand the eligible pool of federal contractors and subcontractors.”
But the OFCCP under the Biden administration claims that the rule is too broad and is “inconsistent with the government’s interest in ensuring equal employment opportunity by federal contractors.”
Jenny Yang, the current director of OFCCP, wrote in a recent blog post that the department’s proposal will “protect workers from discrimination and safeguard religious freedom by rescinding the unnecessary and problematic” expansion issued under the Trump administration.
Now that the proposal has been published, the agency will accept comments on the plan until Dec. 9.
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