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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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September 17, 2019


Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of 16 attorneys general in opposing a new federal rule undermining civil rights protections that prevent federal contractors from discriminating against employees. Under the proposed rule, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) would expand existing exemptions to allow any federal contractor who asserts a religious purpose to discriminate against current or prospective employees based on the religious or moral objections of the contractor.

In the comment letter, Raoul and the coalition urge the DOL to rescind the proposal and note, among other things, that it needlessly conflicts with protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“This rule would open the door for businesses to claim religious exemptions in order to discriminate against employees,” Raoul said. “I am committed to protecting the rights of workers, and that includes ensuring anti-discrimination protections are in place to allow for a safe, fair, and welcoming work environment.”

Under the proposed rule, the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs would expand its interpretation of the religious exemption contained in Executive Order 11246, which was amended in 2014 to include landmark anti-discrimination protections for workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Executive Order 11246 mandates equal employment opportunity in federal government contracting and prohibits all federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin. The executive order already allows for a limited exemption that enables certain religious organizations to favor employees or job candidates of a “particular religion.” Under the new proposal, the DOL seeks to loosen the standards regarding the types of organizations that can self-identify as religious.

As a result, the DOL is creating the opportunity for a broad range of employers, including for-profit corporations, to claim the exemption and discriminate against their employees based on any worker’s non-adherence to specific religious beliefs or practices as understood by the contractor. For example, under the new rule, a gay or transgender employee could potentially be required to adhere to the religious tenets of a for-profit corporation’s owners or board or face the possibility of termination.

Attorney General Raoul is committed to protecting workers from unlawful employment practices. In August, the governor signed a law, initiated by Raoul, to establish the Worker Protection Unit within the office of the Attorney General to better protect Illinois workers from wage theft and other unlawful employment practices. In May, the Attorney General’s office entered a consent decree to protect employees of MTIL, Inc. from workplace sexual harassment and harassment. In April, Raoul testified before the Congressional House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee about the wage theft crisis and the importance of having the federal government as a partner in these efforts. Raoul has also previously opposed DOL proposals that would undermine important employee protections.

Joining Raoul in submitting the comment letter are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.


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