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DOL Advances Plan to Rescind Trump-Era Religious Exemption Rule

March 24, 2021, 1:36 PM

The U.S. Labor Department is moving forward with its intent to propose rolling back a controversial Trump-era rule that broadened some discrimination liability exemptions available to “religion-exercising” organizations that have federal contracts.

The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs received the proposal on March 23. Review by the White House’s regulatory office is usually the final step before an agency can release a proposed rule to the public.

The Trump administration’s rule, which took effect Jan. 8, attracted lawsuits from states and labor unions, which alleged the regulation weaponizes religious freedom against LGBT workers. The groups sued the Labor Department the day after President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs finalized the rule in December, codifying some pre-existing defenses religious federal contractors can use when accused of workplace bias in making religiously-motivated employment decisions. The rule also widened the available liability exemptions to “closely held” corporations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at; John Lauinger at