What is Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

A bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) is a legally permissible exception to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which generally prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. An employer can discriminate based on sex, religion, or national origin, provided that such qualifications relate appropriately to the essential job functions necessary for a specific business operation.

The Age Discrimination Act of 1967 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on age for employment. However, the act exempts certain safety-sensitive positions, such as airline pilots and bus drivers, which are considered BFOQ.

What applies to the BFOQ?

Gender applies to the BFOQ exception if the position requires specific gender to perform essential job duties. However, race is never considered a BFOQ under any circumstance.

Religion can be a BFOQ if the nature of the business is dependent on employing individuals of a particular religion. However, employers must present compelling evidence that members of other religions cannot effectively perform the job.

Allowable examples of BFOQ are narrow and limited to job-related qualifications that are essential to business operations. Invalid claims of BFOQ should undergo a thorough assessment process to verify compliance with applicable laws.

Overall, the BFOQ exception to Title VII is a narrow one and should be used judiciously. Ultimately, employers must ensure they are compliant with current laws and regulations governing employment discrimination.