The agency responsible for supervising federal contractors and subcontractors has withdrawn religious exemptions that had been granted to them by the Trump administration.
The regulation in question was issued in the final days of Trump’s presidency. Intended to clarify the religious exemption scope, opponents of the change claimed it created confusion and potentially allowed contractors to discriminate against gay people.
The Trump-era rule applied only to religious corporations, associations, educational institutions or societies that served as federal contractors or subcontractors.
It permitted employment decisions to be based on adherence to religious tenets embraced by the contractor, even where such decisions were not consistent with antidiscrimination law.
“The return to the pre-2020 rule approach to religious exemptions will not impact most businesses that contract with the federal government,” observe attorneys Christopher. Durham and Zev Grumet-Morris of the Duane Morris law firm.
“However, religious organizations who had relied on the expanded scope of the exemption under the 2020 rule should evaluate how they are considering religion and applying their religious beliefs and tenets in their employment practices – particularly if they adopted changes to their practices in reliance on the 2020 rule.”
DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny Yang asserted that the Trump-era rule improperly deviated from anti-discrimination law both by broadening the test for exemption beyond religious grounds and espousing “an inappropriately categorical approach” to how OFCCP handles religious freedom claims.