California workers employed by tribal casinos may wonder what kinds of employment protections are available to them given that reservations are located on sovereign soil; in other words, reservations are not required to adhere to U.S. employment law. They are treated in the same way that a foreign country would be.
There have been a number of rulings regarding certain circumstances that alter tribes’ immunity from such workplace laws. It is possible that some tribes may waive sovereign rights in an employee contract. Also, in some states, the state may still have jurisdiction in casinos when it comes to employee rights. Contracts with corporations or governments can change the status of tribes regarding immunity as well. For example, receiving federal funding may have an effect.
Tribes typically do not have to adhere to the Americans With Disabilities Act, Title VII and other laws aimed at eliminating discrimination. However, some courts have asked these employers to follow the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. It should be noted that these types of rulings have been inconsistent, and a casino employee cannot always count on them.
Employees may have the option of appealing through a tribal court, but without the assistance of various federal protections behind them, they might not be successful. Casino employees concerned about potential rights violations in their workplace may wish to consult an attorney. Although the outcome largely depends upon the jurisdiction, an attorney may be able to assist a client to the best of their ability while ensuring that the employee’s rights are being met.
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