44 Civil Rights Organizations Call on EEOC to Withdraw Proposed Update Undermining Non-Discrimination Protections

Viet Tran | Human Rights Campaign |  [email protected]
Lacy Crawford | Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law | [email protected]
Charmaine Riley | The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights | [email protected]
Maria Patrick | National Women’s Law Center | [email protected]

WASHINGTON – 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 color, 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 color, 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 organizations 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 organizations,” 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.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 220 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (National Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.  For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.

 The National Women’s Law Center fights for gender justice — in the courts, in public policy, and in our society — working across the issues that are central to the lives of women and girls. We use the law in all its forms to change culture and drive solutions to the gender inequity that shapes our society and to break down the barriers that harm all of us — especially those who face multiple forms of discrimination, including women of color, LGBTQ people, and low-income women and families. For more than 45 years, we have been on the leading edge of every major legal and policy victory for women. Find out more at NWLC.org.