Our Practice

Employment Law

Our firm's extensive knowledge of Indian law provides a particular advantage in addressing federal laws that affect employment but which are silent on whether they apply to Indian tribes.  For example, we successfully established that tribal conservation officers who perform law enforcement functions are exempt from the overtime pay requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act on the same basis as law enforcement officers employed by state and local governments in Reich v. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Comm'n, 4 F.3d 490 (7th Cir. 1993).  That case established an important precedent that recognized and gave effect to tribal sovereign interests when examining a federal statute that did not say whether or how it would apply to tribes.  We have similarly presented the principles of tribal sovereignty and rights of self-government in representing tribes in successfully resolving other administrative disputes with agencies, like the United States Department of Labor, regarding similar issues. 

Our Firm is currently representing a tribal employer in major litigation in both the courts and in proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board on the inapplicability of the National Labor Relations Act to tribes in connection with tribal gaming operations.  And in Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. v. Nat'l Labor Relations Bd., 234 F.3d 714 (D.C. Cir. 2000), the court agreed with our position that an Alaska Native entity which enters into an Indian Self-Determination Act contract with the United States to operate a hospital should be treated like the federal government and not subject to regulation by the Board. 

Part of our employment practice involves helping our clients implement sound human resource practices to prevent employment problems.  We draft many of our clients' Employee Handbooks, personnel policies and procedures, tribal employment rights (TERO) ordinances, and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance materials. We advise our clients on changes in employment laws and assist them in making changes to their employment practices as necessary.

Our work also includes advice on legal questions concerning all aspects of employment law, ranging from requests for accommodation or medical leave to workplace violence or harassment concerns. We have represented clients in investigations by federal agencies, including the Occupation Health and Safety Administration and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. We participate as needed in performance reviews and changes to a worker's employment status, such as termination. We also draft many of our clients' employment contracts with their executive-level employees.  When problems or disputes with employees arise, we provide guidance and help facilitate workplace investigations.