Maryland Federal Court Recognizes Discrimination Claim Based on “Perceived” National Origin


The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland held that a claim of perceived national origin is actionable under Title VII, rejecting the employer’s argument that Title VII protects only actual national origin.

In EEOC v. MVM, Inc., the EEOC claimed that the employer discriminated against employees that it believed to be African. The employer argued that only discrimination based on actual, not perceived, national origin is prohibited by Title VII. The court noted that, while the Fourth Circuit had not yet addressed this issue, other federal appellate courts had recognized claims of perceived national origin, based in part on EEOC guidance referencing both “real” and “perceived” national origin. The court likewise relied on the EEOC guidance to extend Title VII’s protections to “perceived” national origin, stating that to find otherwise “would be to allow discrimination to go unchecked where the perpetrator is too ignorant to understand the difference between individuals from different countries or regions.”

We believe it is likely that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit would agree with the District Court’s rationale. Employers in this jurisdiction should be aware that a claim of perceived national origin is a viable claim.