US: Labor Dept. proposes 'religious exemption' in hiring

The Department of Labor proposed a rule Wednesday allowing “religion-exercising organizations” with federal contracts to raise religious exemptions if accused of bias in their hiring practices.
The Labor Department said the proposal, which is set to officially be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, is intended to help companies “make employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious tenets and beliefs without fear of sanction by the federal government.”

The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which regulates federal anti-discrimination requirements for businesses and other organizations that work with the government, said the rule applies to both religious companies as well as “closely held” groups acting in accordance with their owners’ religious beliefs and is based on past laws and court rulings detailing protections for certain groups.

The proposal will be open for public comments until Sept. 16.

Advocacy groups have long warned that such protections intend to provide cover for groups with discriminatory hiring practices.

“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,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) tweeted after the proposal was announced. “This is taxpayer-funded discrimination in the name of religion. Period.” 

“This rule seeks to undermine our civil rights protections and encourages discrimination in the workplace — and we will work to stop it,” the group added. Read more via the Hill