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Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive

The First Round

The district court refused to equate racial and sex-based discrimination, and endorsed the idea that the bona fide occupational qualification exception does not have to be based on what is absolutely necessary, but rather what is "reasonably necessary." By emphasizing the word "reasonably" and choosing to interpret it to mean that some options are left open for employers, the court found in favor of Colgate's establishment of the weight-lifting limit.

Since the genesis of the weight-lifting restriction was the well-being of female employees, the court declared that Colgate had acted reasonably because it had studied various state weight-lifting regulations before arriving at its own precise limit (rather than determining it in an arbitrary fashion). Furthermore, the court said, it would be impractical to determine weight-lifting ability on an individual basis.

The court's decisions were also fueled by the EEOC's own position at the time: Some protective laws could conceivably be reasonable and therefore should not be overturned. Protective laws--and more discretion for the employer--demanded the adoption of a "common sense" approach, allowing a degree of discretion in hiring even under Title VII.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Bowe v. Colgate-Palmolive - Significance, Protective Legislation, Gender Segregation, The First Round, Appeals Court Overrules, Impact