The Tennessee Human Rights Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin (TN Stat. Sec. 4-21-101 et seq.). In addition, the Tennessee Disability Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate based on a physical, mental, or visual disability unless the disability prevents the applicant from performing the duties required by the job in question or impairs the performance of the work involved (TN Stat. Sec. 8-50-103). Although these two laws do not specifically address the issue of application forms, a form that includes questions about any of these characteristics would likely be considered evidence of discrimination, unless the characteristic is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). The Acts cover employers with eight or more employees.
The Human Rights Act also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating in any manner against any person who has opposed unlawful discrimination, made a charge, filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any investigation, proceeding, or hearing under the Act (TN State Sec. 4-21-301).
The Act permits an employer to make an employment inquiry about an applicant's religion, sex, or age 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 (TN Stat. Sec. 4-21-406(a) and TN Stat. Sec. 4-21-407).
In order to be a BFOQ, a characteristic must be reasonably necessary to the normal operation of an employer's business. The BFOQ exception applies only in limited circumstances, and, in ...