Contributions

Maintaining the Narrow Scope of the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification: Rejecting Gender Discrimination in Bartender Hiring

by Matthew A. Peter­son1

Con­gress enact­ed Title VII of the Civ­il Rights Act of 1964 to pro­hib­it employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of cer­tain pro­tect­ed fac­tors such as gen­der.2 How­ev­er, Con­gress pro­vid­ed for an excep­tion that allows employ­ers to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of these tra­di­tion­al­ly pro­tect­ed attrib­ut­es when the attribute “is a bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion rea­son­ably nec­es­sary to the nor­mal oper­a­tion of that par­tic­u­lar busi­ness or enter­prise.”3 While this affir­ma­tive defense remains avail­able to employ­ers con­fronting alle­ga­tions of unlaw­ful employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion, courts rarely find gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion to be per­mis­si­ble.4 This is because employ­ers bear the heavy bur­den of con­vinc­ing a court by a pre­pon­der­ance of the evi­dence that such dis­crim­i­na­tion is nec­es­sary to main­tain the “essence” of the par­tic­u­lar busi­ness.5

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has express­ly not­ed that the BFOQ defense is a nar­row excep­tion,6 many ser­vice indus­try employ­ers con­tin­ue to engage in hir­ing poli­cies that dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of sex. For exam­ple, the restau­rant chain Hoot­ers con­tin­ues to exclu­sive­ly hire female food servers.7 While the restau­rant chain con­tends that gen­der is an appro­pri­ate BFOQ for their serv­er posi­tions, which pur­port­ed­ly pro­mote a theme of female sex­u­al­i­ty, no court has held that sex is a BFOQ for the Hoot­ers serv­er posi­tion, and Hoot­ers has reached set­tle­ment agree­ments in gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion suits filed against it.8 The promi­nence of female-only serv­er posi­tions remains even more pro­nounced in gam­ing indus­try hotspots such as Las Vegas. As Ann C. McGin­ley, the co-direc­tor of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Neva­da Las Vegas Work­place Law Pro­gram, describes, Las Vegas casi­nos uni­form­ly hire women to serve drinks on the casi­no floor in “tight-fit­ting, sexy” out­fits.9

The wide­spread nature of an employ­ment prac­tice does not guar­an­tee its legal­i­ty. Per­haps some ser­vice indus­try employ­ers con­tin­ue to dis­crim­i­nate on the basis of gen­der in hir­ing deci­sions because the Supreme Court’s test for the pro­pri­ety of a BFOQ remains unclear. The Supreme Court has inter­pret­ed Title VII’s statu­to­ry text stat­ing the BFOQ must be “rea­son­ably nec­es­sary to the nor­mal oper­a­tion of the par­tic­u­lar busi­ness” to require a find­ing that the “essence”10 or “cen­tral mis­sion”11 of a busi­ness would be under­mined if the BFOQ was not accept­ed. How­ev­er, the Supreme Court has not clear­ly artic­u­lat­ed how courts should pro­ceed in deter­min­ing what con­sti­tutes the “essence” of a busi­ness.12 Addi­tion­al­ly, the phrase “cen­tral mis­sion” is ambigu­ous con­sid­er­ing the eco­nom­ic real­i­ty of mul­ti­fac­eted businesses.

This Con­tri­bu­tion will argue that sex is not an appro­pri­ate BFOQ for bar­tender posi­tions. Since “the word ‘nec­es­sary’ in [42 U.S.C. § 2000e‑2] requires that [courts] apply a busi­ness neces­si­ty test, not a busi­ness con­ve­nience test,”13 courts should hold that the essence of a bar busi­ness does not include the pro­mo­tion of female sex­u­al­i­ty. Accord­ing­ly, requir­ing bars to hire male and female bar­tenders under Title VII will not under­mine the “essence” of a bar’s business—making and dis­trib­ut­ing bev­er­ages. Such an inter­pre­ta­tion will remain faith­ful to the Supreme Court’s14 and the Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ty Commission’s15 deter­mi­na­tions that the BFOQ defense is only appro­pri­ate in a nar­row range of employ­ment deci­sions. This inter­pre­ta­tion pre­vents the Title VII excep­tion per­mit­ting dis­crim­i­na­tion from swal­low­ing the gen­er­al rule ban­ning it. More­over, requir­ing casi­no bars to hire bar­tenders of all gen­ders will accel­er­ate the elim­i­na­tion of soci­etal pref­er­ences for bar­tenders of one gen­der over the other.

*****

Title VII declares that an employ­er may not “fail or refuse to hire or to dis­charge any indi­vid­ual, or oth­er­wise to dis­crim­i­nate against any indi­vid­ual with respect to his com­pen­sa­tion, terms, con­di­tions, or priv­i­leges of employ­ment, because of such individual’s race, col­or, reli­gion, sex, or nation­al ori­gin.”16 How­ev­er, Con­gress cod­i­fied in Title VII a nar­row exception—the BFOQ—to per­mit employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of cer­tain pro­tect­ed char­ac­ter­is­tics in par­tic­u­lar circumstances:

Notwith­stand­ing any oth­er pro­vi­sion of this title [42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq.], (1) it shall not be an unlaw­ful employ­ment prac­tice for an employ­er to hire and employ employ­ees … on the basis of his reli­gion, sex, or nation­al ori­gin in those cer­tain instances where reli­gion, sex, or nation­al ori­gin is a bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion rea­son­ably nec­es­sary to the nor­mal oper­a­tion of that par­tic­u­lar busi­ness or enter­prise .…17

When fac­ing employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion lia­bil­i­ty, employ­ers bear the bur­den of per­suad­ing the court that a par­tic­u­lar qual­i­fi­ca­tion is a BFOQ.18 Courts require a defen­dant to estab­lish the pro­pri­ety of this affir­ma­tive defense by a pre­pon­der­ance of cred­i­ble evi­dence.19

The Supreme Court has empha­sized that Title VII’s enact­ing Con­gress sig­naled an intent for courts and adju­dica­tive bod­ies to nar­row­ly inter­pret the BFOQ excep­tion through its choice of lan­guage.20 Specif­i­cal­ly, the Supreme Court not­ed that the mod­i­fi­er “occu­pa­tion­al” restricts the exception’s scope.21 “Occu­pa­tion­al” can­not sim­ply mean “relat­ed to a job,” as that inter­pre­ta­tion would make any require­ment cre­at­ed by an employ­er job-relat­ed. Such a read­ing would reduce the word “occu­pa­tion­al” to sur­plusage since the term “qual­i­fi­ca­tion” already cap­tures an employer’s per­son­al job require­ments.22 Fur­ther­more, courts have empha­sized that the numer­ous oth­er restric­tive terms such as “cer­tain,” “nor­mal,” and “par­tic­u­lar” require courts to inter­pret the BFOQ excep­tion nar­row­ly.23

The pri­ma­ry moti­va­tion behind the enact­ment of Title VII was to cre­ate a statu­to­ry foun­da­tion for the prin­ci­ple of non-dis­crim­i­na­tion.24 The BFOQ excep­tion oper­ates con­trary to that moti­va­tion. Courts have expressed con­cerns that inter­pret­ing the BFOQ excep­tion too broad­ly could lead to the excep­tion under­min­ing the prin­ci­pal pur­pose behind the gen­er­al ban on employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion.25

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, while courts and the EEOC agree that the BFOQ excep­tion is a nar­row one, courts remain divid­ed on which employ­ment cir­cum­stances fall with­in the excep­tion. This lack of clar­i­ty per­sists because the Supreme Court has inter­pret­ed the statu­to­ry text of the BFOQ to mean dis­crim­i­na­tion is only per­mit­ted if the dis­al­lowance of dis­crim­i­na­tion under­mines the “essence” or “cen­tral mis­sion” of the busi­ness,26 yet the Court has not estab­lished a clear method­ol­o­gy to deter­mine a business’s “essence” or “cen­tral mission.”

A sur­vey of Title VII case law reveals that courts most fre­quent­ly deem sex a prop­er BFOQ when the gen­der of employ­ees impacts the safe­ty or pri­va­cy inter­ests of the business’s audi­ence.27 Courts are least like­ly to find sex is an appro­pri­ate BFOQ when the pro­mo­tion of sex appeal is tan­gen­tial to the sex-neu­tral essence of a busi­ness.28

Courts have drawn a dis­tinc­tion between busi­ness­es that hire women to sell sex and busi­ness­es that use sex appeal to sell anoth­er prod­uct or ser­vice. Courts look unfa­vor­ably upon the lat­ter class of busi­ness­es when they argue that the essence of their busi­ness would be under­mined with­out the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing prac­tices.29 Sex BFOQ cas­es can be grouped into three main buck­ets. The first buck­et involves jobs in which the phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics unique to a par­tic­u­lar sex are essen­tial to the per­for­mance of a job.30 The next group of sex BFOQ cas­es involves jobs in which sex­u­al enter­tain­ment is the exclu­sive good for sale, such as the hir­ing of strip­pers and Play­boy cen­ter­fold mod­els. Courts have held sex is a valid BFOQ for these jobs.31 The third group­ing involves instances where employ­ers seek to sell a non­sex­u­al good or ser­vice along­side the pro­mo­tion of sex­u­al arousal. Courts con­sis­tent­ly hold that cas­es falling in this buck­et of sex dis­crim­i­na­tion do not mer­it the BFOQ defense.32

When it comes to pro­vid­ing ser­vices, such as bar­tend­ing, there is no clear answer as to whether the pro­mo­tion of female sex­u­al­i­ty along­side the dis­tri­b­u­tion of food and drink is a part of the “essence” of the busi­ness or a “tan­gen­tial” ele­ment whose absence would leave the “essence” unharmed. The two com­pet­ing lines of case law can be clas­si­fied as “authen­tic­i­ty preser­va­tion” cas­es and “rejec­tion of cater­ing to cus­tomer pref­er­ences” cases.

Courts uni­form­ly agree that they should gen­er­al­ly not con­sid­er cus­tomer pref­er­ences when defin­ing the “essence” of a busi­ness.33 For exam­ple, in the Fifth Cir­cuit case Diaz v. Pan Amer­i­can Air­ways, the court reject­ed the airline’s dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing scheme that only recruit­ed female flight atten­dants.34 While the air­line pre­sent­ed evi­dence that cus­tomers indi­cat­ed pref­er­ences for female flight atten­dants, and tes­ti­mo­ny from a psy­chi­a­trist that female flight atten­dants bet­ter catered to the psy­cho­log­i­cal needs of pas­sen­gers, the court reject­ed the notion that gen­der played a role in the “essence” of the air­line busi­ness.35 Instead, the court deter­mined that the essence of the air­line busi­ness is safe­ly trans­port­ing cus­tomers from one des­ti­na­tion to anoth­er, which would not be under­mined by hir­ing flight atten­dants of all gen­ders. 36

Sim­i­lar­ly, in Fer­nan­dez v. Wynn Oil Co., the Ninth Cir­cuit was con­front­ed with an inter­na­tion­al mar­ket­ing agency which con­duct­ed busi­ness with South Amer­i­can clients who indi­cat­ed they did not want to work with a female mar­ket­ing part­ner.37 While the dis­trict court found sex to be a BFOQ on the basis of tes­ti­mo­ny from the clients that they would refuse to work with a female mar­ket­ing part­ner, the Ninth Cir­cuit over­turned the deci­sion, not­ing that stereo­typed cus­tomer pref­er­ences can­not jus­ti­fy a sex­u­al­ly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry prac­tice because pro­mot­ing a woman into the mar­ket­ing role would not destroy the essence of a mar­ket­ing busi­ness.38 The Ninth Cir­cuit placed an empha­sis on the EEOC reg­u­la­tion, not­ing that cus­tomer pref­er­ences gen­er­al­ly can­not inform the “essence” of a business—they can only sup­port BFOQ pro­pri­ety in instances of main­tain­ing authen­tic­i­ty.39

On the oth­er hand, courts are allowed to con­sid­er cus­tomer pref­er­ences for an authen­tic or gen­uine expe­ri­ence.40 The New York State Human Rights Divi­sion stat­ed in dic­ta that sex was a BFOQ when hir­ing Play­boy Bun­nies, female employ­ees at Play­boy Clubs who brought cus­tomers drinks while serv­ing as “eye can­dy.”41 The Play­boy Bun­ny excep­tion aligns with how courts com­mon­ly accept that sex is an appro­pri­ate BFOQ for an actor or actress role.42

The dif­fi­cult ques­tion that courts must con­front is how far to extend this “authen­tic­i­ty” excep­tion to per­mit dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex.

*****

Ulti­mate­ly, courts should not deem sex a BFOQ for bar­tend­ing posi­tions, regard­less of whether a bar has bar­tenders serv­ing drinks on a casi­no floor, in a bar area, or inside a cabaret show.

Casi­nos and bars with only female bar­tenders will attempt to liken the bar­tender posi­tion to the role of an actress, argu­ing that hir­ing male bar­tenders will destroy their cus­tomers’ authen­tic enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence. Bar own­ers will argue that patrons do not come to a bar just to buy drinks—instead they come for an expe­ri­ence. If cus­tomers mere­ly want­ed to pur­chase alco­hol, they would pur­chase bev­er­ages at a local liquor or gro­cery store, avoid­ing bars sub­stan­tial upcharges. Some bars attract cus­tomers by cre­at­ing an enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence revolv­ing around sports, while oth­er bars enter­tain cus­tomers by pro­mot­ing female sexuality.

Casi­no own­ers will have an eas­i­er time liken­ing their bar ser­vices to the enter­tain­ment indus­try because of the mul­ti-faceted enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence of casi­nos, in which patrons con­sume alco­hol while gam­bling, club­bing, or relax­ing at a pool. Addi­tion­al­ly, casi­nos will like­ly argue that while a bar­tender only plays a minor role in the cre­ation of an authen­tic sex­u­al­ized enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence, the authen­tic­i­ty of an expe­ri­ence can still be destroyed by sec­ondary roles. For exam­ple, if a movie direc­tor casts Angeli­na Jolie to star in a film as a high school teacher, but then hires forty-year-olds to por­tray some of her stu­dents, the authen­tic­i­ty of the movie will be under­mined, even by these minor roles.

How­ev­er, if courts allow bars to main­tain dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing prac­tices by claim­ing they are pro­mot­ing an authen­tic enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence, it is unclear how courts would main­tain the force behind Title VII’s pro­hi­bi­tion on gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion in employ­ment prac­tices. If a bar can suc­cess­ful­ly claim pro­tec­tion from dis­crim­i­na­tion lia­bil­i­ty by claim­ing authen­tic enter­tain­ment as a part of its busi­ness “essence,” then what is to stop bowl­ing alleys and cof­fee shops from claim­ing they not only pro­vide goods and ser­vices but also enter­tain­ment cen­tered on female sexuality?

Such an inter­pre­ta­tion of Title VII would be incon­sis­tent with the Act’s prin­ci­pal pur­pose and statu­to­ry text, which the Supreme Court has empha­sized require a nar­row inter­pre­ta­tion.43 The Play­boy deci­sions involv­ing women dressed up as Play­boy Bun­nies while serv­ing drinks were decid­ed by state adju­di­ca­to­ry bod­ies as opposed to the Supreme Court or fed­er­al cir­cuit courts, and are not bind­ing legal prece­dent. Fur­ther­more, the Play­boy Bun­ny roles are dis­tin­guish­able from that of a tra­di­tion­al bar­tender as the Play­boy Bun­ny was the name­sake of the club and an already estab­lished mod­el­ing acco­lade. There­fore, courts should not extend the Play­boy Bun­ny log­ic to bar­tender roles. The authen­tic­i­ty of the enter­tain­ment expe­ri­ence in a bar or casi­no is not depen­dent on the bar­tenders in the man­ner that the Play­boy Club expe­ri­ence was on the bun­nies. As a result, the essence and authen­tic­i­ty of a bar or casi­no will not be under­mined by requir­ing them to hire bar­tenders of any gender.

Instead, courts con­front­ed with gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion charges for bar­tender posi­tions should fol­low the approach­es tak­en in the flight atten­dant cas­es and reject the pro­pri­ety of a BFOQ. In par­tic­u­lar, courts should adopt the fol­low­ing ana­lyt­i­cal framework:

Diaz and its prog­e­ny estab­lish that to rec­og­nize a BFOQ for jobs requir­ing mul­ti­ple abil­i­ties, some sex-linked and some sex-neu­tral, the sex-linked aspects of the job must pre­dom­i­nate. Only then will an employ­er have sat­is­fied Weeks’ require­ment that sex be so essen­tial to suc­cess­ful job per­for­mance that a mem­ber of the oppo­site sex could not per­form the job.44

A bartender’s prin­ci­pal respon­si­bil­i­ties include the mak­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of drinks, as opposed to pro­mot­ing sex­u­al­ized enter­tain­ment. A bar­tender is no longer a bar­tender if she does not make and serve drinks. How­ev­er, a bar­tender is still a bar­tender when not pro­vid­ing sex­u­al­ized enter­tain­ment. That is why courts should find that pro­mot­ing sex-spe­cif­ic enter­tain­ment is not includ­ed in the “essence” of a bar business.

In 2017, the EEOC filed suit against Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club in Flori­da for the club’s deci­sion to only hire female bar­tenders in its strip club.45 In Decem­ber 2019, the EEOC announced the club would pay $20,000 and end its dis­crim­i­na­to­ry bar­tender hir­ing prac­tice, not­ing that the con­duct vio­lat­ed Title VII: “bar­ring an entire gender—half the population—from a bar­tend­ing job is cer­tain­ly not one of those excep­tions.”46 If the fed­er­al agency in charge of enforc­ing Title VII finds that a strip club does not require exclu­sive­ly female bar­tenders to main­tain the club’s authen­tic­i­ty and essence, then it seems unlike­ly that it would find a bar or casi­no can suc­cess­ful­ly argue a BFOQ defense for dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing on the basis of gen­der to pro­vide sex­u­al­ized entertainment.

Title VII was enact­ed in 1964, a time in which many mem­bers of soci­ety held dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pref­er­ences. The pas­sage of the gen­er­al bar on dis­crim­i­na­tion with a nar­row excep­tion was meant to help ush­er the elim­i­na­tion of these unnec­es­sary dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pref­er­ences from soci­ety. When courts end dis­crim­i­na­to­ry hir­ing prac­tices, they pre­vent busi­ness­es from cater­ing to them. As a result, this pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty for indi­vid­u­als with dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pref­er­ences to inter­act with busi­ness­es that do not dis­crim­i­nate and hope­ful­ly real­ize through those inter­ac­tions that their pre­ex­ist­ing pref­er­ences are unfound­ed and unnec­es­sary. If courts pre­vent bars from dis­crim­i­nat­ing on the basis of gen­der today, in time it is like­ly that many indi­vid­u­als who cur­rent­ly pre­fer female bar­tenders will come to real­ize the gen­der of their bar­tender does not mean­ing­ful­ly affect their enjoy­ment of bar experiences.

*****

Main­tain­ing the Supreme Court’s nar­row inter­pre­ta­tion of the BFOQ excep­tion will open up jobs dis­crim­i­na­to­ri­ly denied to men in some cir­cum­stances and new jobs dis­crim­i­na­to­ri­ly denied to women in oth­er cir­cum­stances. The text of Title VII com­mands a nar­row inter­pre­ta­tion of the excep­tion, ensur­ing this excep­tion does not swal­low the rule. While it is impor­tant to allow per­for­mance providers—e.g., movie stu­dios, Broad­way shows, and cabaret shows—to main­tain authen­tic per­for­mances through gen­dered cast­ing, such neces­si­ty of dis­crim­i­na­tion should not apply when bars and casi­nos hire bar­tenders. The “essence” of a bar is the mak­ing and serv­ing of drinks—tasks that indi­vid­u­als of all gen­ders can perform.

1. Matthew Peter­son is a J.D. Can­di­date (2021) at New York Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law. This piece is a com­men­tary on the prob­lem pre­sent­ed at the 2020 Frank A. Schreck Gam­ing Law Moot Court Com­pe­ti­tion host­ed by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Neva­da, Las Vegas School of Law. The ques­tion addressed whether a casi­no can law­ful­ly make female gen­der a qual­i­fi­ca­tion for a bar­tender posi­tion that serves drinks both in a bar and an adja­cent cabaret the­ater. The legal­i­ty of such a hir­ing scheme turns on whether or not gen­der is a bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion (“BFOQ”), an excep­tion to Title VII’s gen­er­al pro­hi­bi­tion on employ­ment discrimination.

2. Courts tend to use the terms “sex” and “gen­der” inter­change­ably in the Title VII con­text, and this Con­tri­bu­tion will do so as well.

3. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e‑2(e).

4. See Team­sters Local Union No. 117 v. Wash­ing­ton Dep’t of Corr., 789 F.3d 979, 987 (9th Cir. 2015) (“In light of [the] demand­ing legal stan­dards, BFO­Qs are few and far between.”).

5. Hen­ry v. Mil­wau­kee Cty., 539 F.3d 573, 579–80 (7th Cir. 2008).

6. See Int’l Union v. John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. 187, 201 (1991) (“The word­ing of the BFOQ defense con­tains sev­er­al terms of restric­tion that indi­cate that the excep­tion reach­es only spe­cial sit­u­a­tions.”); Dothard v. Rawl­in­son, 433 U.S. 321, 333 (1977) (“[T]he vir­tu­al­ly uni­form view of the fed­er­al courts [is] that [the BFOQ] pro­vides only the nar­row­est of excep­tions to the gen­er­al rule requir­ing equal­i­ty of employ­ment opportunities.”).

7. See Jacob Sham­sian, The Strange Loop­hole that Lets Hoot­ers Hire Only Female Servers, Busi­ness Insid­er (Sept. 13, 2015), https://www.businessinsider.com/how-can-hooters-hire-only-women-2015–9.

8. See id. (not­ing that Hoot­ers set­tled a class-action law­suit for $3.75 mil­lion and sub­se­quent­ly set­tled anoth­er gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit while keep­ing its exclu­sive female-serv­er hir­ing prac­tice in place).

9. See Ann C. McGin­ley, Babes and Beef­cake: Exclu­sive Hir­ing Arrange­ments and Sexy Dress Codes, 14 Duke J. of Gen­der L. & Pol’y 257, 257 (2007) (“Las Vegas casi­nos exclu­sive­ly hire women to serve cock­tails on the casi­no floor, dress­ing them in tight-fit­ting, sexy, uncom­fort­able cos­tumes and high heels.”).

10. See Dothard, 433 U.S. at 336 (inter­pret­ing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e‑2(e)).

11. See John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. at 204 (quot­ing W. Air Lines v. Criswell, 472 U.S. 400, 413 (1985)).

12. See Kim­ber­ly A. Yuracko, Pri­vate Nurs­es and Play­boy Bun­nies: Explain­ing Per­mis­si­ble Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion, 92 Calif. L. Rev. 147, 152 (2004) (empha­siz­ing that the process of deter­min­ing the “essence” of a busi­ness is “both facial­ly unclear and rad­i­cal­ly under­the­o­rized by the courts”).

13. Diaz v. Pan Am. World Air­ways, Inc., 442 F.2d 385, 388 (5th Cir. 1971).

14. See John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. at 201.

15. The EEOC, the fed­er­al agency in charge of enforc­ing fed­er­al laws pro­hibit­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, has sim­i­lar­ly inter­pret­ed the BFOQ defense nar­row­ly. In 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a) (2020), the agency states: “The com­mis­sion believes that the bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion excep­tion as to sex should be inter­pret­ed narrowly.”

16. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e‑2(a)(1).

17. Id. § 2000e‑2(e).

18. Hen­ry, 539 F.3d at 580; see also Hawkins v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 697 F.2d 810, 815 (8th Cir. 1983) (stat­ing that employ­ers face a “heavy bur­den” to appro­pri­ate­ly estab­lish a BFOQ defense).

19. Criswell, 472 U.S. at 419 n.29.

20. See John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. at 201.

21. Id.

22. Id.

23. Id.; see also Diaz, 442 F.2d at 388 (not­ing that “the use of the word ‘nec­es­sary’ in [42 U.S.C. §2000e‑2] requires that [courts] apply a busi­ness neces­si­ty test, not a busi­ness con­ve­nience test”).

24. Weeks v. S. Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., 408 F.2d 228, 235 (5th Cir. 1969).

25. E.g., Diaz, 442 F.2d at 387 (“[I]t would be total­ly anom­alous to [con­strue this pro­vi­sion] in a man­ner that would, in effect, per­mit the excep­tion to swal­low the rule.”).

26. See John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. at 204 (quot­ing W. Air Lines v. Criswell, 472 U.S. 400, 413 (1985); Dothard, 433 U.S. at 333).

27. See, e.g., Dothard, 433 U.S. at 335–36 (empha­siz­ing the inabil­i­ty to main­tain prison secu­ri­ty as a par­tial jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for deem­ing sex a BFOQ for a prison guard role); John­son Con­trols, 499 U.S. at 206 n.4 (not­ing pri­va­cy could serve as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for a BFOQ under the “essence of the busi­ness” test); Ever­son v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr., 391 F.3d 737, 740–41 (6th Cir. 2004) (hold­ing that female gen­der is a BFOQ for guards in female pris­on­er hous­ing units because it would decrease the like­li­hood of sex­u­al abuse and oth­er secu­ri­ty issues); Fes­el v. Mason­ic Home, Inc., 447 F. Supp. 1346, 1352 (D. Del. 1978), aff’d, 591 F.2d 1334 (3d Cir. 1979) (rec­og­niz­ing the pri­va­cy inter­ests of res­i­dents in a retire­ment home who would pre­fer a nurse aide of the same sex); Nor­wood v. Dale Main­te­nance Sys., Inc., 590 F. Supp. 1410, 1423 (N.D. Ill. 1984) (hold­ing that the fact that a wash­room atten­dant could see men using the facil­i­ties was a suf­fi­cient jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to make sex a BFOQ to pro­tect pri­va­cy interests).

28. See McGin­ley, supra note 9, at 266 (“While courts are gen­er­al­ly more lenient in find­ing BFO­Qs when the employ­er asserts con­sumer pri­va­cy as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, courts judge an employer’s BFOQ defense more harsh­ly when the employ­er hires women or men exclu­sive­ly to use sex appeal to sell unre­lat­ed goods and services.”).

29. Yuracko, supra note 12, at 158.

30. See Rosen­feld v. S. Pac. Co., 444 F.2d 1219, 1224 (9th Cir. 1971) (offer­ing the job of a wet-nurse as an exam­ple of a job war­rant­i­ng sex as a BFOQ because the employee’s phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics are essen­tial to the job).

31. See Wil­son v. South­west Air­lines Co., 517 F. Supp. 292, 301 (N.D. Tex. 1981) (empha­siz­ing that “in jobs where sex or vic­ar­i­ous sex­u­al recre­ation is the pri­ma­ry ser­vice pro­vid­ed, e.g. a social escort or top­less dancer, the job auto­mat­i­cal­ly calls for one sex exclu­sive­ly.”); Lar­ry Alexan­der, What Makes Wrong­ful Dis­crim­i­na­tion Wrong? Bias­es, Pref­er­ences, Stereo­types, and Prox­ies, 141 U. Pa. L. Rev. 149, 205 (1992) (not­ing that hir­ing only female strip­pers is a per­mis­si­ble use of sex as a BFOQ).

32. See Diaz., 442 F.2d at 385 (reject­ing Pan Amer­i­can Air­ways’ attempt to exclu­sive­ly hire female flight atten­dants); Wil­son, 517 F. Supp. at 303 (reject­ing South­west Air­lines’ attempt to only hire female flight atten­dants); Guardian Cap. Corp. v. N.Y. State Div. of Hum. Rts., 360 N.Y.S.2d 937, 938–39 (N.Y. App. Div. 1974) (reject­ing a restaurant’s argu­ment that hir­ing only males was nec­es­sary for its business).

33. See EEOC v. R.G., 884 F.3d 560, 586 (6th Cir. 2018), aff’d sub nom. Bostock v. Clay­ton Cty., 140 S. Ct. 1731 (2020) (quot­ing Diaz, 442 F.2d at 389) (not­ing that when “asked to deter­mine whether cus­tomers’ bias­es may ren­der sex a ‘bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion’ under Title VII . . . ‘it would be total­ly anom­alous . . . to allow the pref­er­ences and prej­u­dices of the cus­tomers to deter­mine whether the sex dis­crim­i­na­tion was valid.’”); see also Ruck­er v. High­er Educ. Aids Bd., 669 F.2d 1179, 1182 (7th Cir. 1982) (hold­ing the dis­trict court erred in allow­ing employ­ers to hire based on cus­tomer pref­er­ences); Fer­nan­dez v. Wynn Oil Co., 653 F.2d 1273, 1276 (9th Cir. 1981) (reject­ing a company’s BFOQ defense based on inter­na­tion­al clients’ cul­tur­al pref­er­ences for a male mar­ket­ing partner).

34. 442 F.2d at 388.

35. Id.

36. Id.

37. 653 F.2d at 1276.

38. Id.

39. Id.; see 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(1)(iii) (2020) (“The refusal to hire an indi­vid­ual because of the pref­er­ences of cowork­ers, the employ­er, clients or cus­tomers except as cov­ered specif­i­cal­ly in para­graph (a)(2) of this sec­tion.”); 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(2) (2020) (“Where it is nec­es­sary for the pur­pose of authen­tic­i­ty or gen­uine­ness, the Com­mis­sion will con­sid­er sex to be a bona fide occu­pa­tion­al qual­i­fi­ca­tion, e.g., an actor or actress.”).

40. 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(2) (2020).

41. Yuracko, supra note 12, at 158 n.28 (cit­ing St. Cross v. Play­boy Club, Case No. CSF 22618–70, Appeal No. 773 (N.Y. State Div. of Hum. Rts. Dec. 17, 1971); Weber v. Play­boy Club, Case No. CSF 22619–70, Appeal No. 774 (N.Y. State Div. of Hum. Rts. Dec. 17, 1971)).

42. See 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(2).

43. See cas­es cit­ed supra note 6.

44. Wil­son, 517 F. Supp. at 301 (empha­sis added).

45. Press Release, Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ty Comm’n, Gold, Inc. / Sammy’s Gentlemen’s Club to Pay $20,000 to Set­tle EEOC Sex Dis­crim­i­na­tion Law­suit (Dec. 10, 2019), https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12–12-19.cfm.

46. Id.