A Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ) is a quality or requirement by employers that are legally allowed in correspondence to the job nature. These qualifications are necessary for firing and retaining employees, which is why employers advertise these requirements when looking for prospective employees.
Some of these qualifications may come across as unfair restrictions, such as gender, age, nationality, religion, and physical abilities. However, these are relevant for the job and can be backed up by law, which is why the restrictions are labeled as ‘bona fide’.
Which Laws Establish the BFOQ Requirements?
Although the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination, Section 625 Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications, which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission administers, grants exceptions. It states a list of exceptional cases where discriminatory hiring and termination can be justified based on occupational requirements, but only in very rare cases.
When and Why is BFOQ Relevant?
Some of the cases where discriminatory employment is bona fide are:
Affect on pregnancy on employment;
Physical requirements for modeling;
Employment based on origin;
Physical fitness in employment.
Some jobs are extremely strenuous on the body and mind, which is why some employers may not wish to hire or retain women when they become pregnant. However, if they arrange an extended maternity leave for the mothers, the employees can benefit from it.
When it comes to religious requirements, gender can play a role. Positions require male and female segregation, and preachers will only be designated to their religious community, which is why these requirements are bona fide. Modeling also has some bona fide physical qualifications.
Here are some of the criteria that cannot be accepted:
Stereotypical gender bias;
Age-related bias that’s irrelevant to the job;
Religious and racial bias unrelated to the occupation;
Bias related to physical disability that’s irrelevant to employment.
What are Some of the Considerations for a BFOQ?
Although these topics are sensitive for many people, employers may have bona fide requirements according to the job for the sake of the safety of the employees. Here are some considerations of bona fide occupational requirements.
Although rare, certain jobs require gender specification that is not tied to any sort of gender discrimination. For example, a fashion house only for men will employ male models for their photoshoots.
Some hospitals have male and female nurses designated for male and female patients. Some patients demand privacy and won’t let someone from the opposite gender nurse them, so this is also a bona fide requirement.
Some organizations require people only from a particular religion. A church or a Christian community will employ a priest who’s Christian and will be able to guide the community.
A mosque will require an Imam, a Muslim, to lead the prayers. Islamic institutions will also employ Muslim teachers to guide the students. However, there can be exceptions in this case sometimes.
A Buddhist temple will only employ Buddhist preachers. They will lead Buddhist prayers and festivities and perform worship and Buddhist ceremonies.
Age limitations can be mentioned in some job requirements. For example, pilots have age restrictions in the aviation field. They are often asked to retire earlier than the average retirement age.
This is because of the physical challenges that come along with aging, such as decreased productivity, less attention, blurred vision, etc. Athletes also have an early retirement age as the body can’t take on excess strenuous activities after a certain time.
Although it’s rare, certain employers require people of a specific nationality to work in their organizations. Embassies of certain countries will require ambassadors of that nationality, for example.
When does the Court Grant BFOQ?
When there’s a BFOQ claim made, the employer has to prepare several things to prove that they weren’t discriminating. They need to do the following things:
The type of organization;
Provide a detailed explanation of the position requirements in their organization;
A breakdown of the job description;
Provide comparisons to prove the BFOQ identifications and the necessity of the requirements.
The court may grant a BFOQ on three grounds:
If the requirements meet the essence of the business;
If the requirements have privacy reasons;
If the qualifications are made to meet the requirements in the arts sector, such as filming, theatre, etc.