US Department of Labor rule rescission returns to longstanding policy, practice on religious exemptions for federal contractors, subcontractors
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the rescission of the rule “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption,” in effect since Jan. 8, 2021. The rescission ensures a return to the department’s prior policy and practice in place during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama – of interpreting and applying the religious exemption in Executive Order 11246 consistent with Title VII principles and case law.
The rescission of the rule will be published in the Federal Register on March 1.
Enforced by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, EO 11246 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. The order contains a religious exemption for religious corporations, associations, educational institutions, and societies with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion. The rescission preserves the order’s religious exemption, which remains available to qualifying contractors.
“The U.S. Department of Labor remains committed to protecting workers from discrimination and safeguarding principles of religious freedom. This rescission restores the department’s prior approach of aligning Executive Order 11246’s religious exemption with Title VII case law as applied to the facts and circumstances of each contractor when it invokes the exemption,” said Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny R. Yang.
In addition to EO 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. These laws, as amended, prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discrimination in employment because of disability or status as a protected veteran.