The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits employers from using job application forms that directly or indirectly ask for any information pertaining to race, color, sex (including pregnancy and related medical conditions), sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, age, ancestry, national origin, or previous claim brought under the Workers' Compensation Act, unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exception applies (ME Rev. Stat. Tit. 5 Sec. 4572, Sec. 4572-A). All employers are covered (ME Rev. Stat. Tit. 5 Sec. 4553). It is unlawful to retaliate against any individual who opposes an unlawful discriminatory practice or who has made a charge, testified, or assisted in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Act (ME Rev. Stat. Tit. 5 Sec. 4572(E)).
An employer may make an employment inquiry about one of the previously listed characteristics only if it is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's business and there is no less intrusive way to ensure that the applicant will be able to perform the essential functions of the job in question. In order to be a BFOQ, a characteristic must be absolutely essential to the applicant's ability to perform the job. For example, being female would be a legitimate BFOQ for a person applying for a job as a model of women's clothing. The BFOQ exception applies only in limited circumstances, and, in general, courts have been extremely reluctant to sanction otherwise discriminatory practices on BFOQ grounds. Employers should use caution in relying on the BFOQ rationale and should always consult with legal counsel before making any inquiries on the basis of a BFOQ.