While Title VII prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of sex, a facially discriminatory employment practice is allowed if sex is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) for the position.
To justify discrimination under the BFOQ exception, an employer must show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that: (1) the "job qualification justifying the discrimination is reasonably necessary to the essence of its business"; and (2) "sex is a legitimate proxy for determining" whether a correctional officer has the necessary job qualifications."Judgments by prison administrators that are the product of a reasoned decision-making process, based on available information and expertise, are entitled to some deference." The DOC in this case underwent an exhaustive process to determine that sex was a BFOQ for the positions at issue, and the DOC's judgment was entitled to deference.
Female gender was a BFOQ for the positions at issue. The DOC identified several reasons for placing only women into these positions: improving security, protecting inmate privacy, and preventing sexual assaults. Placing only women in these positions was reasonably necessary to the essence of prison administration. The employees' sex was a "legitimate proxy" for determining whether officers had the necessary job qualifications to meet these goals, and alternatives to the sex-based classification were "reasonably considered and refuted."
The opinion is available here.