All Articles

Are you reading the script?

Tribal employers provide an abundance of due process in the workplace.  As part of that process, tribal employers frequently give employees an opportunity to grieve a wide range of workplace disputes.  Whether grievance hearings are formal or informal, hearing procedures provide the architecture for a balanced process. If you use hearing procedures in the grievance process, would a script help the grievance panel uniformly deliver a fair and consistent hearing? A failure to use [...]

Have you included a “Get Along With Others” policy in your handbook?

In some instances, it may not be a good idea to use the hostile work environment policy when addressing hostility in the workplace.  Hostile work environment is a subset of sexual harassment.  If employees are displaying hostile behavior in the workplace, but the hostility is not targeted against a protected class, the offensive behavior might not be a violation of your harassment policy.  Even though the behavior may not violate your harassment policy, you [...]

Should employers promulgate a fraternization policy?

Yes. Workplace camaraderie is beneficial for employers but Friday night frat-house behavior is counterproductive, ruins office furniture and may get you sued.  Can employers draw the line between the workplace and the frat-house?  One tool many employers use in defining that line is a fraternization policy.  Of course not all or even most romantically involved coworkers violate the twin constraints of employer policy or good taste, but for those employees who are overly enthusiastic [...]

What are the fingerprints of government?

In considering whether federal employment laws apply to tribal employers, some courts are drawing a distinction between tribal government operations and tribal enterprises. The federal employment laws in question are the laws addressing minimum wage, overtime, leave, unions, safety, age discrimination and others.  For tribal government operations like education, health care, and the delivery of clean water, these courts are agreeing with tribes in declaring that some federal employment laws do not apply to [...]

Does your employee handbook include the right ingredients?

Employee handbooks serve to define employee success and failure in the workplace.  Employers express their definition of success and failure in the workplace by affirming some behavior and prohibiting other behavior.  On the affirmative side, employers reward productive practices like timely reporting to work and dressing in a professional manner.  On the negative side, employers discipline harassment, retaliation and unlawful touching.  By defining these important positive and negative policies, by defining the terms and [...]

Drug and Alcohol Policy Best Practices

Tribal governments and their enterprises address the use and possession of drugs and alcohol in the workplace, and the external use impacting the workplace, with policies defining the relevant rules and practices.  If your policy has not been updated for awhile, here are some thoughts regarding some, but certainly not all, of the best practices used by tribes. Consent.    Before the specific best practices of drug and alcohol policies are addressed, determine whether the [...]

Have you reviewed your domestic violence policy?

Domestic violence is a serious problem for society and since Human Resources interacts with all aspects of society, addressing domestic violence in the workplace must be an aspect of our roles.  The United States Department of Justice reports: "According to Amnesty International  “violence against women is one of the most pervasive human rights abuses. It is also one of the most hidden. It takes place in intimate relationships, within the family and at the [...]

What Tribal Employers Should Know About Defamation?

Tribal employers should be aware of the potential for defamation claims from both the perspective of the tribal employer and from the perspective of tribal officials and employees.  Since both the tribal employer, and the officials and employees acting for the tribal employer, can get sued for defamation, looking at this risk from both perspectives is prudent. The specific standards for defamation vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally to establish a claim an employee [...]

Should tribal employers require employees to consent to tribal rules?

Yes. The courts have made it more difficult for tribal employers to require employees to follow the rules.  To reduce this difficulty, tribal employers should clearly define the rules, obtain employee consent before application of the rules, train employees to understand the rules, and enforce the rules through fair processes.  A significant portion of employee rules are contained in the employee handbook or policy manual and employee consent to the rules in the handbook