Court Approves 90-Day Stay in Litigation After Biden Admin Told Court of Its Intent to Propose Rescinding the Rule
Unlawful Trump-Era Rule Allows Federal Contractors to Claim Expanded Religious Objections to Justify Discriminating Against Women, LGBTQ+ Workers
Portland, O.R. — The Biden administration told a federal court Wednesday that it “intends to propose rescission of the rule at issue” in a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration rule that dramatically expands the ability of federal contractors and subcontractors to cite religious objections to justify employment decisions that discriminate against women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, among others. In stating its intent to rescind the rule, the Biden administration also requested a 90-day stay of the litigation. The court granted the stay request on Wednesday.
Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Pride at Work, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) filed suit over the unlawful rule on January 21. The groups are represented by Democracy Forward, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and Albies & Stark, LLC.
In response to the Biden administration’s announcement of its intent to rescind the rule, the groups issued the following joint statement:
“We commend the Biden administration for swiftly recognizing the need to revisit this unlawful Trump-era rule, which expressly authorizes federal contractors to discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity by citing religious objections. We filed suit to protect women and LGBTQ+ individuals’ most basic rights in the workplace, and we’ll continue our fight until the Trump administration’s unlawful policy is set aside.”
Trump’s Department of Labor (DOL) and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) upended nearly 80 years of standing federal policy prohibiting employment discrimination by federal contractors and subcontractors when it issued its unlawful rule on December 9, 2020.
The Trump administration’s wide-ranging, harmful rule reinterprets and vastly expands the limited reach of the prior religious exemption, which had only allowed religious organizations with federal contracts to give preference to co-religionist applicants when making hiring decisions. The Trump administration’s changes now expressly allow federal contractors and subcontractors to make employment decisions that discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, by claiming to be doing so based on the contractor’s sincerely held religious tenets.
The unlawful new policy gives federal contractors claiming the religious exemption sanction to, for example:
- Fire a woman for getting pregnant while she is unmarried;
- Refuse to hire someone in a same-sex marriage;
- Fire an employee for disclosing that she is transgender;
- Refuse to provide health insurance to women because they are not believed to be heads of household.
The ‘Religious Exemption Rule’ went into effect on January 8, 2021. The groups’ lawsuit was filed on January 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.
Democracy Forward is a nonprofit legal organization that scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, represents clients in litigation to challenge unlawful actions, and educates the public when the White House or federal agencies break the law.
Oregon Tradeswomen is a nonprofit organization working to ensure access, opportunity, and equity for women in the skilled construction trades. Our programs, services, and public policy advocacy work to address issues of gender disparity, occupational segregation, and wage inequality.
Pride At Work is the largest national organization that builds power for LGBTQIA+ working people. We organize mutual support between the organized Labor Movement and the LGBTQ Community for social and economic justice. We seek full equality for LGBTQIA+ working people in our workplaces, our unions, and the public square. We organize in the spirit of the union movement’s historic motto, “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.”
The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.
The National Women’s Law Center fights for gender justice — in the courts, in public policy, and in our society — working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls. We use the law in all its forms to change culture and drive solutions to the gender inequity that shapes our society and to break down the barriers that harm all of us — especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women of color, LGBTQ people, and low-income women and families. For more than 45 years, we have been on the leading edge of every major legal and policy victory for women.
Mary Ann Naylor
(503) 335-8200 ext. 126
Pride at Work
National Women’s Law Center