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Proposed labor rule would exempt religious contractors from bias regulations

U.S. Department of Labor office building
Photo: Alastair Pike /AFP/Getty Images

The Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that would allow religious organizations with federal contracts to "make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government."

The big picture: This move falls in line with the Trump administration's record of easing regulations designed to protect against discriminatory hiring practices. The Department of Labor says it's proposing the rule because religious organizations are wary of accepting federal contracts due to "uncertainty regarding the scope of the religious exemption," per existing regulations.

What they're saying:

  • Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella: "Today's proposed rule helps ensure the civil rights of religious employers are protected. As people of faith with deeply held religious beliefs are making decisions on whether to participate in federal contracting, they deserve clear understanding of their obligations and protections under the law."
  • American Civil Liberties Union: "The Department of Labor just proposed a rule that aims to let government contractors fire workers who are LGBTQ, or who are pregnant and unmarried, based on the employers’ religious views. This is taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Period."

The proposal says religious groups and companies that incorporate their owners' beliefs into their operations can hire people based on "acceptance of or adherence to religious tenets," but also "reaffirms employers' obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases."