Department of Labor Promoting Broad License to Discriminate with Federal Funds | National Center for Transgender Equality

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Gillian Branstetter, Media Relations Manager
August 13, 2018

Department of Labor Promoting Broad License to Discriminate with Federal Funds

A new directive encourages federal contractors to discriminate against their LGBTQ employees

A new directive from the Department of Labor (DOL) is encouraging federal contractors to discriminate against their LGBTQ employees. 

In a broad directive published Friday, DOL signaled to contractors that they may legally fire or refuse to hire employees if they claim that employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity conflicts with the employer’s religious views. The directive, which DOL says will be followed by formal rules, falsely cites the Supreme Court’s decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop case as justification for this change.

Federal law prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against LGBTQ employees. This directive is a direct attempt to undermine that order and the rights of LGBTQ contractors.

At the same time, DOL also removed information from its website concerning frequently asked questions about nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people and the limited scope of allowable religious exemptions.

Previously, the site made clear religious organizations receiving federal contracts may prefer members of their religion, but no exemption would be granted for discrimination against an employee “on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin." That language has now been deleted.

“This is an attempt to encourage businesses to take taxpayer dollars and then fire people for being transgender,” said Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

“Religious organizations have ample protections under federal law, but they are not allowed to use federal money to discriminate against people. The language of this directive is so broad and so vague because it is part of a long line of attempts by this administration to sow confusion and encourage any employer to act on their worst prejudices. No employer should be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to fire someone because of who they are.” 

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