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Lambda Legal says new federal rule creates “essentially limitless” religious exemption

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WASHINGTON — On Monday, Lambda Legal said that a new federal rule for contractors would allow “essentially limitless” religious exemption.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a final rule that expands the ability of federal contractors to claim religious exemptions from federal nondiscrimination and equal employment opportunity laws and regulations on Monday.

“It is hard to overstate the harm that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is visiting on LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and others with the sledgehammer it is taking to federal nondiscrimination protections,” said Lambda Legal Director of Law and Policy Jennifer Pizer. “For nearly 80 years, it has been a core American principle that seeking and receiving federal tax dollars to do work for the American people means promising not to discriminate against one’s own workers with those funds.  This new rule uses religion to create an essentially limitless exemption allowing taxpayer-funded contractors to impose their religious beliefs on their employees without regard to the resulting harms, such as unfair job terms, invasive proselytizing and other harassment that make job settings unbearable for workers targeted on religious grounds.”

“There are almost 4 million employees who work for federal contractors, including another 1.6 million who work for federal grantees impacted by this rule,” said Sasha Buchert, senior attorney with Lambda Legal. “Already, from one-third to one-half of the 8.1 million LGBTQ employees nationwide report facing discrimination on the job. The harm to those who already face pervasive discrimination is incalculable.”

The rule was first proposed in 2018.

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