The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) has issued a new directive reminding its staff members of their obligation to recognize the religious freedom of federal contractors. Here’s a link to the new directive: Directive 2018-3. Here’s a link the OFCCP press release about the directive: Press Release.
The directive was issued in response to several recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court on religious freedom, and President Trump’s executive order which “reminded the federal government of its duty to protect religious exercise — and not to impede it.” Thus, the OFFCP reminded its staff that:
• They “cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the
illegitimacy ofreligious beliefs and practices” and must “proceed in a manner
neutral toward and tolerant of … religious beliefs.”
• They cannot “condition the availability of [opportunities] upon a recipient’s
willingness to surrender his [ or her] religiously impelled status. ”
• “[A] federal regulation’s restriction on the activities of a for-profit closely held
corporation must comply with [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”
• They must permit “faith-based and community organizations, to the fullest
opportunity permitted by law, to compete on a level playing field for …
• They must respect the right of “religious people and institutions … to practice
their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the Federal
As a practical matter, the new OFCCP directive does not provide much clarity on a key religious issue: whether government contractors can discriminate against LGBT persons based upon religious beliefs. Indeed, I previously wrote that President Trump will not rescind President Obama’s Executive Order prohibiting LGBT discrimination: Trump and LGBT. For now, government contractors should proceed cautiously if they want take employment actions based upon religious beliefs.