In the US, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Human Rights Campaign, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the National Women’s Law Center submitted a comment on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Proposed Updated Compliance Manual on Religious Discrimination, which would undermine employment protections for women, people of [colour], LGBTQ people, people who adhere to minority religious or are non-religious, and those from other minority populations.
In response to the Proposed Update, the groups issued the following joint statement:
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Proposed Update would create new and unneeded carveouts and exemptions to workplace discrimination protections for workers in this nation. As published, the proposed update’s flawed and unclear guidance would license discrimination against women, communities of [colour], LGBTQ people, people of minority faiths and non-religious faiths and other minority groups. The proposed revisions run counter to decades of Title VII case law and the longstanding practices of the EEOC’s mission to defend employees against discrimination.
“It is clear this new guidance, alongside recent rules from the Department of Labor, is a part of an ongoing campaign to prioritize the interests of employers over working people. As organizations dedicated to fairness and equality, we urgently call on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to withdraw the proposed update.”
In EEOC’s decision to pursue significant substantive changes to a key compliance manual that lacked both transparency and inclusiveness, the Commission undermined the Proposed Update’s integrity. EEOC recently disclosed it held “dialogue sessions” before issuing the update but did not publish a list of all organisations that participated in the ‘sessions.’ More expansive and timely engagement of other stakeholders would have ensured balanced diversity of viewpoints in advance of issuing the Proposed Update.
As published, the Proposed Update presents a flawed guidance on the scope of coverage, including expanding the definition of ‘religious organisations,’ an incorrect interpretation of the scope of the ministerial exception and lack of proper guidance on the limited scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and a failure to assert that addressing discrimination is a compelling interest and EEOC’s mission; a lack of clarification that religious employers cannot use religious objections to engage in discriminatory behavior; a need for more, not less, clarity regarding the prevention of employee harassment; and a distortion of the law regarding reasonable accommodations.
In addition to these comments, a group of 44 civil rights and gender justice organizations submitted comments in opposition to the Proposed Update.