Fighting Workplace Discrimination Under the Guise of Religious Freedom

On August 15, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would grant federal contractors broad religious exemptions from employment non-discrimination laws.

Federal contracts impact nearly one-fifth of the U.S. labor force, raising serious concerns for the rights of employees, applicants, and others who work for federal contractors across the country. While faith-based entities play an essential role in community-based services and other contracting activities, their religious nature does not mean that their workers should have fewer rights than employees of non-religious employers.

Expanding the religious exemption might allow faith-based federal contractors to claim a right to:

  • Refuse to interview anyone, however qualified, who doesn’t regularly attend religious services or isn’t the “right” religion
  • Fire an employee who uses birth control or who is pregnant and unmarried
  • Fire an employee who marries his same-sex partner or deny employment or health benefits to married same-sex couples that are available for married straight couples
  • Refuse to allow transgender employees to dress and access facilities consistent with their gender identity

The Department of Labor solicited public comments on the rule through September 16, 2019. Interfaith Alliance is working hard to make sure this dangerous proposal never becomes law – but we need your help.

Here’s what you should know about the proposed rule – and how to take action.

All Employees Should Be Free From Discrimination

Shortly after the Department of Labor released the proposed rule, Interfaith Alliance policy and legislative advisor Katy Joseph told the Washington Post, “We reject the Trump administration’s distorted notion that personal faith can be used as an opt-out from civil rights laws, and we will not stand by while they place employees of minority faiths, nonreligious people, LGBTQ+ individuals, and so many others at risk.”

Interfaith Alliance submitted comments urging the Department of Labor to stand up for the rights of all workers to be free from discrimination. Read our comments.

Curious to see what others had to say? Visit the Department of Labor’s public comment portal. Administrative agencies are required to read every comment they receive so your voice truly matters.

The portal was only open for 30 days – a very short period of time to gather sufficient responses from the many advocates, contractors, employees, family members, and stakeholders that may be effected. Given the widespread impact of this proposed rule, the public deserves a meaningful opportunity to be heard. We believe providing a longer comment period is consistent with the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) stated mission to “protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the law.”

Interfaith Alliance recently joined nearly 100 civil rights organizations in calling on OFCCP to extend the deadline for comment by a minimum of 60 days. Read our letter.