SW Legal studies in Business

Same-Sex Staffing for Juvenile Facility Violates Title VII

Appeals court held that a same-sex staffing policy at a juvenile detention facility could not be defended as a bona fide occupational qualification. The employer did not provide sufficient evidence to show that such staffing could be justified.

Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words

Sex Discrimination; BFOQ; Harassment

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Center instituted a policy that required each unit of the facility to be staffed at all times by at least one officer of the same sex as the detainees housed at a unit. Because there were many more male units than female units, the policy had the effect of reducing the number of shifts available for women officers and increasing the shifts for men. Two women officers sued for sex discrimination. The district court held for the County, finding that the policy of assignment was based on a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) and so was not illegal sex discrimination. The court also found that there had not been harassment of women officers. The officers appealed.


Reversed and remanded in part. An employer who claims a BFOQ defense to a Title VII claim bears the burden of proving that it would not rearrange job responsibilities or otherwise eliminate the clash between business necessities and employment opportunities. Administrators are due substantial deference when fashioning policies to further the goals of their organization, but they do not have unlimited discretion. The County failed to show that same-sex staffing was reasonably necessary for rehabilitation, security, or privacy. The reduced opportunities then faced by women employees were an adverse action covered by Title VII. So that claim can proceed. The assertion of harassment because of the dispute with management over the same-sex staffing policy did not result in retaliation or other adverse actions that was backed by evidence, so that claim fails.

Citation Henry v. Milwaukee County, ---F.3d--- (2008 WL 3853388, 7th Cir., 2008)

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