SPRINGFIELD — Last week, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined 16 other state AGs in opposing a federal rule that could allow federal contractors to discriminate on “religious objections.”
Under the proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Labor would expand existing exemptions to allow any federal contractor who asserts a religious purpose to discriminate against current or prospective employees based on the religious or moral objections of the contractor.
Raoul and the other attorneys general said the rule would conflict with protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“This rule would open the door for businesses to claim religious exemptions in order to discriminate against employees,” Raoul said in a press release. “I am committed to protecting the rights of workers, and that includes ensuring anti-discrimination protections are in place to allow for a safe, fair, and welcoming work environment.”
The department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs would expand its interpretation of the religious exemption contained in Executive Order 11246, which was amended in 2014 to include anti-discrimination protections for workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The order already allows for a limited exemption that enables certain religious organizations to favor employees or job candidates of a “particular religion.” Under the new proposal, the DOL seeks to loosen the standards regarding the types of organizations that can self-identify as religious. The new rule could allow for-profit companies to claim the religious exemption.
Joining Raoul in submitting a comment letter protesting the rule are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.