Even though the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment practices, bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ) are an exception. BFOQs are traits or characteristics that allow an employer to hire individuals on the basis of religion, sex, age, and national origin, only if they are reasonably necessary for that business or organization.
For example, a Catholic school may choose to only hire teachers who are of the Catholic faith. Another instance would be a menswear clothing company only hiring male models to model its clothing line.
If charged with a discriminatory hiring or employment practices claim, an employer may attempt to use a bona fide occupational qualification as a defense. The court will examine this type of defense very closely; as such, the employer must demonstrate and prove its validity.
Since BFOQs are narrowly interpreted, the employer must be able to:
Safety reasons may also be BFOQs for an employer’s defense against employment discrimination. For instance, there are mandatory retirement ages for airline pilots because of safety reasons. To prove a BFOQ necessity, the employer must demonstrate how it meets the goal, without a better alternative and less discriminatory impact.
Some common BFOQ’s are:
These qualifications are common requirements for an office position or a food server.
Employers cannot arbitrarily discriminate against anyone based on assumptions or unproven bases. For instance, an employer cannot choose to only hire men because of the stereotypical belief that they are more aggressive. The same goes for coworker or customer preferences; hiring decisions cannot be based on preferences unless valid safety concerns exist.
If an employment action has been taken against you that you believe is discriminatory, contact an employment attorney immediately. If you are an employer who is facing a discrimination claim, you should also speak to an employment attorney with help on determining whether you have a bona fide occupational qualification defense. Employment law can be complex, and having an experienced lawyer in your corner can make a difference in how your case will fare.
Last Modified: 11-28-2017 02:13 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
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