US Dept. of Labor announces new policies to ensure equal employment and religious freedom protections

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) today announced two new policy directives focused on ensuring equal employment opportunity and protecting Americans’ religious freedom. The equal employment opportunity directive calls for more comprehensive reviews of contractor compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, and the religious freedom directive protects the rights of religion-exercising organizations.

By law, federal contractors are required to take affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity in their employment processes. OFCCP enforces federal laws that prohibit federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and status as a qualified individual with a disability or protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they inquire about, discuss, or disclose their compensation or that of others, subject to certain limitations. The Agency’s directives provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors regarding enforcement and compliance policy and procedures.

Through the directive issued today, the Department announced that it is implementing a comprehensive compliance initiative, which seeks to ensure compliance with equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination regulations in all of its protected groups. As part of this initiative, OFCCP will add focused reviews to its compliance activities, with comprehensive onsite reviews focused on each of the three enforcement authorities OFCCP enforces: Executive Order 11246, as amended; Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended.

The second directive instructs OFCCP staff – in all their activities – to take into account recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and White House Executive Orders that protect religious freedom. The Supreme Court issued rulings in 2014, 2017, and 2018 that safeguard the broad freedoms and anti-discrimination protections that must be afforded religion-exercising organizations and individuals under the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Additionally, President Donald J. Trump has issued Executive Orders making clear the Administration’s commitment to robust protections for religious freedom, as well as ensuring a level playing field for faith-based organizations to compete for federal grants, contracts, programs, and other funding opportunities.

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