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Workplace discrimination and bona fide occupational requirements

Most employers are well aware that discrimination in the workplace is wrong and illegal, but some do it anyway. They often attempt to justify or conceal misconduct behind legal jargon.

For example, employers may mention confusing employment terms like bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQ). While a valid term, employees need to know what BFOQ means and when it is a legitimate defense for employers.

A loophole with limits

A BFOQ is an employee attribute required to perform a particular task or job sufficiently and safely. Employers in Texas may ask for specific requirements regarding gender, age or other factors, but only when necessary for the position.

If your boss was making a movie, hiring someone of a certain age or gender to portray a character may be a valid BFOQ. On the other hand, barring women would be discriminatory for an assembly line job because both genders can perform the work adequately.

Valid vs. flimsy excuses

Excluding someone based on stereotypes, appearance or customer preference is not a BFOQ. Prior swimming experience or certification for a lifeguard job is a valid requirement, but demanding males or females only is unlawful.

Don’t let jargon fool you

If you experience discrimination and your employer throws around BFOQ or other terms you do not understand, get a legal opinion. Your boss may be trying to use permitted exceptions incorrectly to avoid hiring or promoting qualified candidates.

Understanding legitimate and non-legitimate reasons for certain workplace practices means you can challenge discriminatory conduct. A successful case can improve your situation and pave the way for a more inclusive workplace for everyone. Having experienced legal guidance is crucial.