|Employment law in Indian country involves application of relevant tribal law and questions of applicability and operation of federal and, occasionally, state law. The foundational question in these cases can implicate fundamental tribal sovereign authority to exclude and to condition entry of nonmembers (including nonmember companies) on those nonmembers' agreement to prefer qualified tribal members over others in hiring and lay-off decisions. See EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co., No. 2:01-cv-1050-JWS, 2012 WL 5034276 (D. Az. Oct. 18, 2012) (rejecting EEOC position that Title VII precluded tribe-specific preferences required in Navajo coal lease), aff'd, 773 F.3d 977 (9th Cir. 2014). The application of other federal laws may depend, in the first instance, on the location of the Indian lands on which the business is being conducted, as the federal Courts of Appeal are occasionally not in accord on the application of particular federal laws to Reservation employers.
The most important body of employment law within Indian country is the law of the Indian nations. Those tribal laws vary, but the principles are generally consistent. Employment of tribal members in their own homelands is critical for tribal economic self-determination and the economic well-being of the community. The Firm assists employers and tribal governments alike in navigating the complex issues surrounding employment law in Indian country and the intersection of tribal and federal laws on Native lands.