Labor Department Issues Religious Freedom Directive

The Trump administration is again acting in defense of religious freedom. Last month featured major initiatives of the State and Justice departments. This week it was the U.S. Department of Labor’s turn.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued a new a directive to its employees to ensure that in their oversight of federal contracts they are mindful of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and White House executive orders protecting religious liberty.  The directive specifically highlights the landmark Masterpiece Cakeshop (2018), Trinity Lutheran (2017), and Hobby Lobby (2014) high court rulings and instructs its staff to be steer clear of religious hostility, to ensure a level playing field for religious organizations, and to respect the Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s balance in considerations involving closely held for-profit corporations.

Notably, the OFCCP’s directive declares that it supersedes past guidances, specifically including an Obama administration document that had confused the status of religious exemptions to sexual orientation and gender identity contractor requirements. Those requirements stem from a 2014 ENDA-like executive order that is still in force. Also of significance, the new directive indicates that a more formal rulemaking process on this matter of religious freedom is anticipated.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: August 17, 2018

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