Bona Fide Occupational Qualification

What does a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification mean?

A bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) (US), a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR) (Canada), or a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ) (UK) is a quality or an attribute that employers are allowed to consider when hiring and retaining employees.

A quality that, in other contexts, would constitute discrimination in violation of civil rights employment law. Such qualifications must be specified in the job description.

Employers can use a BFOQ to make hiring decisions for a specific position based on criteria like sex, religion, or national origin if they can show that these factors are an essential job requirement.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification
Bona Fide Occupational Qualification

What is the purpose of Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

The very nature of a job or position may require the employer to discriminate against candidates or employees on the basis of age, gender, religion, nationality, race or some other status. Even though such discrimination is generally not allowed under the law, it may become a necessary to make it a legal method during rare circumstances.  

To be legitimate, the employer must prove that no member of the group being discriminated against is capable of performing the job. To serve drinks in a bar, for example, an employee must be at least 21 years old. As a result, this age discrimination is justifiable and legal, and thus qualifies as a Bfoq defense exception.  

The most prevalent exceptions are for religious, gender, and age reasons. An employer must use considerable caution since the exemption may appear to make perfect commercial sense on the surface, but it may be found to be invalid in a supreme court of law.

In a women's department shop, hiring solely young females may make perfect commercial sense for the manager, yet the same task can be done with adult ladies. As a result, such an exception would be illegal.  

What is the common reason for invoking a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

When an employer is accused of discrimination in the workplace, bona fide occupational qualifications are frequently mentioned. The employer may argue that the discrimination was justified because of a legitimate occupational qualification.

Genuine occupational qualifications are frequently utilized for safety concerns, such as requiring airline pilots and bus drivers to retire at a certain age.

BFAQ examples:

Mandatory retirement ages for bus drivers and airline pilots, for example, are BFAQ examples of genuine occupational qualifications. Furthermore, a maker of men's clothes may lawfully advertise for male models in its advertisements.

A religious institution, for example, may legitimately require that members of its staff be members of that religion, and may lawfully refuse to hire anyone who is not a member.

To demonstrate that they will be able to transport fire victims out of a burning structure, fire departments can force firefighters to lift a certain amount of weight.

While religion, sex, or national origin may be legitimate occupational qualifications in some circumstances, race can never be a BFOQ.

Why age is a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

Age discrimination in employment is prohibited (according to age discrimination in employment act). However, due to the safety concerns of specific occupations being done, the legislation contains a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification exception for age. Airline pilots and bus drivers are examples of this.  

Is Gender a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

In most cases, bona fide occupational qualifications only apply when the BFOQ is deemed reasonably necessary for the normal running of a business or enterprise. For example, an under-garment store or brand may only require hiring women for the positions.  

Can Religion be a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification?

Religious belief may also be considered a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. For example, a Catholic college may constitutionally require Catholics to serve in positions such as president, chaplain, and teaching faculty, but membership in the Catholic Church is generally not regarded a BFOQ for secretarial and janitorial positions.

How is Bona Fide Occupational Qualification requirement relevant when advertising or hiring employees?

There are eight different reasons why a company can claim a GOQ while advertising a job:

  • Jobs in other nations with laws or norms that are particularly relevant
  • Physiology or genuineness? (for example, in choosing actors to play a role),
  • The employee's privacy and the dignity of the people he or she would be working with (for example, staff in a care home),
  • Integrity of a private household (for example, professional carers for an individual, but not normally nannies),
  • When it is impractical to expect the employer to offer additional accommodations, single-sex housing is used.
  • Single-gender institutions, such as special jails and refuges,
  • When sex is directly related to the welfare or counselling delivered, personal welfare and counselling
  • When a job is explicitly marketed for a married couple.

Reasons must be particular and absolute in each case, not based on stereotypes or broad generalizations.

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