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Examining the rights an employee has under a tribal government

California employees may be interested in an article discussing the differences that working for an Indian tribe brings from an employment law perspective. While the tribal governments are exempt from some statutes, others still apply to protect tribal employees.

Native American reservations are considered separate sovereign nations with their own sovereign immunity. This means that they are treated like foreign countries under U.S. law. However, they are not exempt from all laws, particularly when it comes to how they treat their employees. Some states have agreements with the tribal governments giving them jurisdiction over employment law issues. In other cases, a casino or other tribal business will have a special agreement with the state government. This is particularly true when the casino is receiving funding from the state.

Courts have also ruled that tribal governments are subject to certain employment laws. For instance, some judges have found that tribes must follow the Family and Medical Leave Act, ERISA and the Fair Labor Standards Act. In other cases, tribes are exempt from following U.S. employment laws. Title VII, for example, which prohibits discrimination, was drafted by Congress to specifically leave out tribal governments. When discrimination claims are present, the tribal courts themselves may be an avenue for employee redress. While the chances of winning such a case may be less than in state courts, it may be the only way to appeal an unfair employer action.

It can be difficult for employees to ascertain what rights they have on sovereign land. An attorney with experience in employment law may be able to help those who work for Native American tribes. The attorney may be able to represent the employee in filing a discrimination or wage claim against their employer.

Source: AOL Jobs, "Do I Have Workplace Rights If I Work In An Indian Casino?", Donna Ballman, June 17, 2014

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