A New Twist in the Religious Liberty Debate

Update 10:20 PM

The future of the bill is in flux. The Senate has withdrawn their conferees, with the intention of creating a new conference report that doesn’t have the anti-discrimination language. However, we are within the two hour window that a bill must be on the table prior to a vote so the Senate would need to suspend its rules in order to have a vote before Sine Die.

If a new conference committee report cannot be approved, it is likely that the bill will be dead.

Original post:

A Department of Labor bill, House Bill 904, has been modified by a conference committee to include a new section that allows someone who believes that they have been discriminated against by a private employer because that employer failed to follow corporate anti discrimination policy to file a class action lawsuit against that company.

The new provisions are tucked into the first three sections of the conference committee report. The remaining seven sections are the original contents of the bill. That section allows the Department of Labor to work with the Department of Revenue to investigate reports of fraud and abuse of the Employment Trust Fund.

While the added sections do not provide any anti discrimination provisions at the state level, it represents a challenge to private companies, who might be lax in enforcing any internal policies a company has addressing civil rights in employment. The measure could be looked at as a legislative response to those companies who have touted the social progressiveness of their anti-discrimination policies in contrast to the alleged discriminatory practices enshrined in House Bill 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act.

The Conference Committee consisted of House members Barry Fleming of Harlem, Brian Strickland of McDonough, and Trey Kelley of Cedartown. The Senate members were Josh McKoon of Columbus Greg Kirk of Americus, and P.K. Martin of Lawrenceville.

The House and Senate still need to approve the report, followed by the governor’s signature. Yet, because the original bill is considered to be a must pass measure, approval is likely. You can see the conference committee report below the fold.

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