The Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment because of religion or creed. The Act covers employers of eight or more employees and the state and its subdivisions (TN Code Sec. 4-21-401 et seq.). Under the Act, it is unlawful to:
• Fail or refuse to hire, or discharge any person or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of religion or creed.
• Limit, segregate, or classify an employee or applicants for employment in any way that would deprive an individual of employment opportunities or adversely affect an employee because of religion or creed.
• Publish, print, or circulate any advertisement or notice for employment that expresses any preference, limitation, or specification as to religion or creed, unless the religion or creed is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
No individual liability. An individual employee or agent of an employer cannot be liable for any violation of the Act (TN Code Sec. 4-21-301(b) ).
BFOQ. According to the state Human Rights Commission's rules, it is permissible to hire an individual on the basis of religion or creed because of a BFOQ that is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's particular business (e.g., hiring a Jewish rabbi to oversee the preparation of kosher food) (TN Rules and Regs. Sec. 1500-01-02-.05). However, the BFOQ exception applies in only highly limited circumstances, and employers should use caution about relying on a BFOQ when making decisions that have a disproportionate effect on persons of a particular religion and creed. Employers have the burden of establishing with the Commission that ...