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ERLC seeks to remove abortion, gender identity from sex-bias law guidance


WASHINGTON (BP) — The Ethics & Religious Commission has asked a federal agency that oversees employment discrimination to block employee allegations of sex-based harassment based on abortion, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) includes in its latest enforcement guidance on workplace harassment a definition of sex-based discrimination that allows employees to allege they were harassed because they had or didn’t have an abortion, because they were denied access to bathrooms aligning with their chosen gender identity, or because they were not referenced by their chosen pronoun.

The new guidance is contrary to constitutionally protected freedoms and endangers women by denying them the use of gender-specific restrooms in the workplace, ERLC President Brent Leatherwood wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to EEOC.

“We strongly believe that the proposed enforcement guidance will lead to violations of the consciences of religious individuals by requiring them to affirm ‘gender transitions’ and ‘abortion’ as a legitimate medical procedure to the detriment of their conscience and personal safety,” Leatherwood wrote.

Specifically, Leatherwood wrote, the guidance “continues to include concerning language that lists abortion procedures as ‘pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,’ an issue the ERLC similarly addressed in comments submitted for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act just three weeks ago.”

In the EEOC’s August guidance for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) Leatherwood references above, EEOC includes several conditions among “related medical conditions” the law shields from discrimination, including “pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential pregnancy, lactation (including breastfeeding and pumping), use of birth control, menstruation, infertility and fertility treatments, endometriosis, miscarriage, stillbirth, or having or choosing not to have an abortion, among other conditions.”

Congress asks the EEOC to issue guidance on implementing anti-discrimination laws when the laws include vague language. In turn, concerned groups may submit comments in response to EEOC’s proposals.

ERLC Policy Manager Hannah Daniel accuses the EEOC of catering to contemporary culture.

“Though this type of guidance does not have the force of law, the EEOC is attempting to bully employers into compliance with radical gender ideology and a pro-abortion culture,” Daniel told Baptist Press. “This guidance tramples over conscience rights of employers and employees who object to participating in false realities through pronoun and bathroom usage while dismissing and even increasing legitimate sex-based harassment experienced by women in the workplace.”

In opposing the EEOC’s guidance, Leatherwood cites:

  • the Southern Baptist Convention’s Bible-based belief proclaiming the inherent value of every human being;
  • Scriptural standing that God creates no one with “the wrong biological sex;
  • religious freedom protected by the U.S. Constitution and other laws;
  • and Southern Baptists’ belief that gender transitions are harmful and contrary to God’s design for human flourishing.

“Based upon the well-established tenets of our Constitution, individuals must be permitted to act in congruence with their deeply held religious beliefs without fear of being persecuted or harassed in return,” Leatherwood wrote. “In fact, the EEOC itself lists religion as a legally protected characteristic, but the proposed enforcement guidance is ambiguous regarding religious protections, like those enshrined in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

EEOC cites Title VII in defining “related medical conditions” to include having or choosing not to have an abortion.

Leatherwood’s letter is available here.