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Washington Blade v. U.S. Department of Labor

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  1. Freedom of Information

Case Name: Washington Blade, et. al. v. U.S. Department of Labor

Case Number: 1:20-cv-02591

Court: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

Clients: Washington Blade, Chris Johnson

Complaint Filed: Sept. 15, 2020

Background: In August 2019, Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Labor in an effort to find out whether government officials tried to undermine regulations intended to protect LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination.

Johnson’s FOIA request specifically sought email correspondence involving certain Labor Department officials that mentioned the words “religion” or “religious” between January 2017 and August 2019.

The newspaper requested the emails to learn more about a rule change proposed by the Trump administration in August 2019 that would allow federal contractors to make hiring decisions based on their religious beliefs — a change opponents feared may lead to discrimination against LGBTQ workers.

After the Labor Department failed to comply with statutory deadlines and withheld agency records in response to Johnson’s request, Reporters Committee attorneys filed this lawsuit on behalf of Johnson and the Washington Blade, arguing that the department violated FOIA. The complaint asks the court to order the Labor Department to search its records and immediately disclose all non-exempt records responsive to Johnson’s FOIA request.

Quote: “We are glad to be representing the Washington Blade as it seeks access to records that could shed light on whether government officials took steps to undermine regulations intended to protect LGBTQ individuals from employment discrimination. Federal FOIA can only promote greater transparency and accountability if agencies comply with their statutory obligations to release information, which we fully expect the Department of Labor to do in this case.”

Filings:

2020-09-15: Complaint