The U.S. Labor Department has issued a new directive instructing the Office of Federal Contractors Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to give greater priority to arguments based on religious freedom when arbitrating discrimination charges, taking into account recent Supreme Court rulings and Executive Orders. The OFCCP is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws for federal contractors, including protections for LGBT+ workers.
The new instructions are in keeping with the Trump administration’s consistent emphasis of religious liberties over LGBT+ rights – a prioritization aptly illustrated by the Justice Department’s announcement of a new Religious Liberties Task Force at anti-LGBT+ group Alliance Defending Freedom’s summit in August.
Obama-era rules that banned bias against LGBT+ workers in federal contracting remain in effect, but it is unclear how the competing priorities will sort out in practice.
“Given the hostility of this administration toward LGBT rights, this is very concerning, especially because it doesn’t clarify whether or how compliance officers should continue to implement existing enforcement practices regarding LGBT discrimination,” former OFCCP senior program adviser Pamela Coukos told Bloomberg Law.
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