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DOL Guidance Clarifying the Effect of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Faith-Based Organizations
The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance to clarify the conditions under which the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 allows recipients of DOL financial assistance to maintain their ability to make employment decisions based on religion even when receiving a federal grant under a program whose statute limits those rights.
This guidance, which implements a recent opinion concerning the proper construction of RFRA provided by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), creates a formal process for recipients of DOL financial assistance to seek an exemption under RFRA.
RFRA, as interpreted by DOJ and as implemented by this guidance, ensures that faith based organizations are able to participate as partners in federal programs to help meet the needs of America's communities and retain the freedom to make employment decisions necessary to preserve their religious identity.
What are the Equal Treatment Regulations?
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published regulations on July 12, 2004 to (1) ensure equal treatment of and religious liberty for organizations and individuals, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof; (2) lift unnecessary restrictions on a participant’s use of “indirect” assistance for services that contain religious content or lead to employment in a religious vocation; and (3) clarify proper, Constitutional uses of DOL assistance.
The Equal Treatment Regulations form the basis for creating strong partnerships between government and faith-based and community organizations that can prepare high-need job-seekers to become successful, increase the performance of the workforce investment system, and expand the ability of the workforce investment system to effectively serve struggling communities.
Who and what is covered by the regulations?
The Department’s Equal Treatment Regulations apply to DOL discretionary and formula funds; all federal, state, and local government agencies that administer DOL assistance, including Job Corps; recipients of DOL assistance; the beneficiaries of DOL-supported services; any state, local, or private funds that are commingled with DOL assistance or required as a match; and the use of DOL assistance and other funds commingled with DOL assistance.
What are the "core principles" of Equal Treatment Regulations?
The Equal Treatment Regulations require and define how the U.S. Department of Labor can ensure equal treatment of and religious liberty for organizations and individuals, regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.
The core principles of the Equal Treatment Regulations are:
- Proper, Constitutional Uses of DOL Assistance
- Equal Opportunity for All Organizations
- Respect for the Rights of Faith-Based Organizations
- Respect for the Rights of Beneficiaries of DOL Assistance
What resources are available to help me better understand and comply with the regulations?
I. DOL Equal Treatment and Religion-Related Regulations
- Text of the DOL Equal Treatment and Religion-Related Regulations (PDF version)
- Text of the regulation on religious hiring exemption for federal contractors (in PDF text)
II. DOL and Job Corps Regulatory Guidance and Resources
- Access "Transforming Partnerships" Online Training Course Access "Transforming Partnerships: How to Apply the U.S. Department of Labor's Equal Treatment and Religion-Related Regulations to Public-Private Partnerships" at http://partnership.dolelearning.org/. This is an online training course that provides in-depth training on the equal treatment and religion-related regulations at the U.S. Department of Labor, specifically the new equal treatment regulations at 29 C.F.R. Part 2, Subpart D and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) nondiscrimination and programmatic regulations at 29 C.F.R. 37.6(f) and 20 C.F.R. 667.266 and 667.275, and case law that is crucial to understand to ensure proper implementation of these regulations. This course is designed as a training tool primarily for administrators and staff who work in the Workforce Investment System or at faith-based and community organizations.
- "Transforming Partnerships" PowerPoint Presentation — Providing in-depth training on the equal treatment and religion-related regulations, specifically the new equal treatment regulations and the WIA nondiscrimination and programmatic regulations, as well as case law that is crucial to ensure proper implementation of these regulations. This presentation is designed as a training tool primarily for administrators and staff who work in the Workforce Investment System or at faith-based and community organizations.
- Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 29-07 (May 1, 2008)
Informing the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) grantees about the equal treatment regulations and outlining the constitutional and other requirements related to the participation of faith-based organizations in SCSEP.
- Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 1-05 (July 6, 2005) New Rules Allowing Use of WIA Title I Financial Assistance for Religious Training and Employment, and Making Other Changes to Religion-Related Regulations Governing Recipients of DOL Support Including the One-Stop Career Center Service Delivery System and the Job Corps.
- Training and Employment Guidance Letter (TEGL) 17-01 (April 17, 2002) Incorporating and Utilizing Grassroots, Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), Including Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), in Workforce Investment Activities and Programs.
- U.S. Department of Labor Civil Rights Center The Civil Rights Center enforces various Federal statutes and regulations that (1) prohibit discrimination in DOL financially assisted and conducted programs and activities; (2) prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by certain public entities and in DOL conducted activities; and, (3) prohibit discrimination within DOL itself.
III. Federal Regulatory Guidance and Resources
- Executive Orders: Faith-Based and Community Initiative
- White House Guidance for Faith-Based and Community Organizations on Partnering with the Federal Government (PDF version) (En Español)
This document contains valuable information on frequently asked questions about the federal grant system, do's and don'ts for faith-based organizations, and more.
- Regulatory and Policy Changes at other Federal Departments