Workers sue over Trump’s last-minute discrimination rule

Stephon Johnson | 2/4/2021, midnight
While Donald Trump might no longer be president of the United States, his impact on the LGBTQ+ community remains.
President Donald Trump White House photo

While Donald Trump might no longer be president of the United States, his impact on the LGBTQ+ community remains.

Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., Pride at Work and the American Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of the Federal Contract Compliance Programs and others challenging a Trump administration rule that allows federal contractors the ability to discriminate for religious reasons. They claim that the outgoing presidential administration violated the Administrative Procedure Act adding a “Religious Exemption Rule” to the legislation.

This addition gives federal contractors the ability to discriminate against women and LGBTQ+ workers. The “Religious Exemption Rule” went into effect on Jan. 8.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are represented by Democracy Forward, the National Women’s Law Center, and Albies & Stark, LLC.

A New York-led coalition of 15 states have also challenged the rule in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen Kelly Kupcak stated that their organization had a virtual mandate to push back against the rule.

“As an organization whose values are rooted in ensuring equal opportunity and equity for all workers in the construction industry, Oregon Tradeswomen had no choice but to challenge this sweeping, harmful rule, which allows for discrimination and hate to be cloaked under ‘religion,’ but in fact, threatens the careers and livelihoods—in fact, the very economic security—of women and LGBTQ+ jobseekers and trades workers,” said Kupcak.

Trump’s rule puts a stop to close to 80 years of federal standing and upends what was considered normality and a formality. It expands the definitions of religion to the point that it allows religious organizations to make gender, sexual-orientation based employment decisions and claim exemption.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said that the Trump administration continued to oppress marginalized communities to the very end of its tenure.

“This rule is a disgusting poison pill that the Trump administration cynically issued as the clock on its term ticked down,” stated Weingarten. “It will permit institutions and employers to illegally discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and nonreligious people, when we should be striving for inclusion and justice for all. Thankfully, we now have a new administration strongly committed to workplace rights—and we can’t allow the harmful agenda of the former president to linger.”

WLC Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice Emily Martin called the rule dangerous and said it gives the green light to businesses who receive federal money to put a target on the back of anyone who isn’t a straight, white, Christian male.

“The Trump administration twisted federal provisions that were meant to protect workers from religious discrimination to use as a weapon against others,” stated Martin. “It’s now a new day, and we are fighting to restore robust civil rights protections that all workers deserve.”