This week, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman approved the EEOC’s application to enforce a subpoena against the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee. This move allows the EEOC to proceed with its investigation of an age discrimination charge filed against the casino by former employee Federico Colón.
According to the EEOC, Adelman rejected the casino’s argument that it is not an “employer” as defined under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Citing U.S. Supreme Court and appeals court cases, Adelman noted that federal statutes generally apply to all persons, including American Indian tribes, except in cases where doing so would negatively impact the autonomy rights essential to a tribe’s self-governance on “purely intramural” matters.
Adelman found that, in running the casino, the Forest County Potawatomi Community was not acting in its sovereign governmental capacity but as a business in interstate commerce and that, because Colón is not a member of the tribe, his employment relationship with the casino was not “purely intramural.”
The lawsuit, EEOC v. Forest County Potawatomi Community, d/b/a Potawatomi Bingo Casino (Case No. 13-MC-61, Eastern District of Wisconsin), stems from an EEOC charge filed in February 2013, in which Colón alleged that the casino had violated the ADEA by harassing him and subjecting him to different terms and conditions of employment than younger co-workers.
Last July, the EEOC’s Chicago District Office requested information related to Colón’s allegations. After the casino refused to provide such information, the EEOC served a subpoena for the information and gave the casino until last August 14, to comply. The casino did not do so and instead filed its own lawsuit, Forest County Potawatomi Community v. Federico Colón and EEOC (Case No. 13-MC-53, Eastern District of Wisconsin), before U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert Jr., in an effort to quash the EEOC subpoena.
In October, the EEOC filed a subpoena enforcement action which sought dismissal of the casino’s motion to quash, which was still pending at the time. Later that month, Clevert ruled in the EEOC’s favor and dismissed the casino’s motion to quash for lack of jurisdiction.