Bona Fide Occupational Qualification | Meaning and Definition

What is Bona Fide Occupational Qualification? 

Bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs) are legally allowed restrictions on hiring and employment based on an applicant’s or employee’s ability to perform a job-related function. 

BFOQs are designed to ensure that only those individuals who can perform a particular job safely and effectively are hired or employed for that position. For example, a BFOQ may be used to select an individual of a certain race/ethnicity for a movie or television show where race/ethnicity is essential to the plotline. 

For an employer to lawfully use a BFOQ as a basis for making hiring or employment decisions, the employer must be able to demonstrate that: 

The legal process of Bona Fide Occupational Qualification

The legal process of bona fide occupational qualification, or BFOQ, is a way for employers to justify discriminatory practices in hiring and employment. The courts have held that discrimination based on certain protected characteristics may be lawful if it is necessary to protect the “essential operation” of the business. 

To prove that a discriminatory practice is a BFOQ, an employer must show that: 

  • The job in question requires a particular characteristic;
  • There is a close nexus or relationship between the possession of the characteristic and successful performance in the job;
  • No other qualifications would enable a person lacking the protected characteristic to perform the job successfully. 

The employer may claim that the discrimination was based on a legitimate occupational requirement. Mandatory retirement ages for airline pilots and bus drivers are frequently established to protect the safety, as are bona fide meaning in law.