Employee Issue:


In very rare cases, it is legal to discriminate against people on the basis of religion, gender, national origin or age (but never race), if the nature of the job requires it. This exception is called the bona fide occupational qualification exception, also known as BFOQ. It arises from the fact that some jobs require people who have a characteristic that the law protects.

If you are unsure whether your employer’s discriminatory actions would be considered a bona fide occupational qualification, fill out our free case review form. A workplace discrimination attorney will evaluate your claim, at no cost to you, to determine whether your employer’s actions were justified.

To be considered a bona fide occupational qualification, the employer must prove the following:

  • The requirement is necessary for the company to succeed
  • The rationality behind their preference is based on a substantial belief that an individual outside of their preferred class could not perform the job
  • A certain type of worker is needed because all others do not have the proper qualifications

For example, if you are a local theatre director and are casting the role of Juliet, you can discriminate against men in filling the part. If you are an official in the Catholic Church and are hiring a new priest, you can discriminate against non-Catholics. However, an employer cannot discriminate based on religion when hiring personnel whose religion does not affect their job duties. For instance, a church cannot discriminate based on religion when hiring janitors, as religious beliefs have no affect on their ability to perform the job. Other examples of bona fide occupational qualifications include mandatory age requirements for pilots and bus drivers.

An employer cannot justify a bona fide occupational qualification with an unproven assumption. For instance, a hospital that only hires female nurses because they are more nurturing would not be protected by the bona fide occupational qualifications rule. The exception also does not apply to situations, for example, where airlines only hire young attractive flight attendants because passengers prefer them. A 40-year old is just as capable as a 21-year old to perform the duties of a flight attendant.

If you are unsure whether your employer's discriminatory actions are considered bona fide occupational qualifications, contact a workplace discrimination lawyer today. He or she can determine whether your employer has violated federal anti-discrimination laws. To receive a free case review today, simply fill out our free case review form.