The employer in this case was a coal mining operation on Native American reservations in Arizona. The lease between the company and the tribes required the company to give a hiring preference to tribal members. ?In 2001, the EEOC sued the employer claiming its implementation of the hiring preference violated Title VII. The case went on for years. The district court eventually granted the company?s motion for summary judgment, ruling the hiring preference was a political classification not based on national origin.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The panel recognized that tribal hiring preference can constitute a hiring preference based on national origin in violation of Title?? VII.? ?But? ?outside?? of?? Title?? VII,? ?Native American preferences are permissible political preferences based on the special relationship between the federal government and tribes.?? The Court held that a preference based tribal membership was not necessarily national origin discrimination. Relying on a 1974 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the panel held that Title VII does not invalidate all tribal hiring preferences. The Court recognized that the Supreme Court case did not involve a tribe-specific preference, but decided that made no difference.

In this case because the tribal preference was? a direct result of the employer?s lease with the tribe allowing it to conduct business on tribal lands, the preference was political and not a violation of Title VII.?? Such tribal hiring preferences promote the goals of federal policy towards tribal communities.

EEOC v. Peabody Western Coal Co., 768 F.3d 962 (9th Cir. 9/26/14) (Fletcher, Graber, Paez)