Written by Don Byrd

On Friday, the Department of Labor announced a new directive aimed at the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which, among other things, enforces anti-discrimination laws for businesses that contract with the federal government. The new guidance is still subject to federal rule-making processes, but suggests that OFCCP staff should grant religious exemptions to businesses and organizations claiming that following nondiscrimination laws would conflict with their religious beliefs. 

Specifically, Directive 2018-03 instructs OFCCP staff to take recent Supreme Court decisions (namely, Trinity Lutheran Church, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Hobby Lobby) into account when enforcing the law barring “federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran.” 

As Bloomberg News reports, the move seems most pointedly a response to the Obama Administration’s order barring federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees. The new directive, however, may open the door to employment discrimination of all kinds using federal dollars, including discrimination on the basis of religion, by closely held businesses contracting with the government but claiming a religious objection.

The Labor Department anticipates developing new rules related to these instructions, including the required period of public comment.

Stay tuned.