A limited exception to the prohibitions against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, religion or national origin under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (www.practicallaw.com/0-501-7062), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (Title VII) and on the basis of age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (www.practicallaw.com/2-501-7061), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-34 (ADEA).
The BFOQ exception applies where an employer can prove that an employment preference based on one of these protected class characteristics is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of its particular business or enterprise. For example, a women's clothing store may legitimately hire female rather than male models. The BFOQ exception is disfavored and construed narrowly. Employers attempting to use the BFOQ exception as a legal defense must be prepared to explain why its bias on the basis of sex, religion, national origin or age is truly necessary to the position in the context of the business or enterprise.
For more information see Practice Note, Recruiting and Interviewing: Minimizing Legal Risk: Bona Fide Occupational Qualification Exception (www.practicallaw.com/1-500-4361) and Practice Note, Discrimination Overview: Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (www.practicallaw.com/3-503-3975).