Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs issued final regulations intended to encourage more religiously affiliated entities to participate in federal contracts. The rules provide that OFCCP will grant maximum deference to religious exemptions from federal contracting rules and those found under related federal laws.
In practice, this change should not affect the majority of federal contractors. For entities affiliated with a religious organization, OFCCP states that it will not seek enforcement action based on that group’s decisions to hire people of that religious persuasion, or for the group’s requirement that employees adhere to certain religious tenants.
These new regulations were strongly opposed by civil rights groups as overbroad, and they may face legal challenge or attempts by the incoming Biden administration to blunt their impact. In the meantime, religiously affiliated employers may have new opportunities to seek federal contracting work.