The South Carolina Human Affairs Law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age (40 years or older), unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business. The law covers employers with 15 or more employees (SC Code Sec. 1-13-10et seq.).
BFOQ exception. An employer may make a preemployment inquiry about one of the characteristics listed above only if it is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's business. For example, being female would be a legitimate BFOQ for a person applying for a job as a model of women's clothing. Employers should use caution in relying on the BFOQ rationale.
Smoker's rights. South Carolina has a separate law protecting the rights of employees to smoke outside the workplace. The law prohibits employers from refusing to hire or promote, firing, demoting, or taking other employment action against employees for using tobacco products outside of the workplace (SC Code Sec. 41-1-85). Therefore, employers should not make preemployment job inquiries regarding an applicant's use of tobacco products.