The EEOC claims that two qualified Hopis, “and a class of similarly situated Native Americans,” were denied jobs at the Bashas’ store, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
Bashas’, which has several supermarkets on the Navajo land, did not deny giving preference to Navajo applicants, a tribal requirement ostensibly approved by another branch of the federal government, according to the East Valley (Arizona) Tribune.
The grocery chain issued this statement regarding the lawsuit: “The Bashas’ stores at issue are on the Navajo reservation. The Navajo Nation is a sovereign nation. The Navajo law – specifically the Navajo Preference in Employment Act – requires all employers on the reservation give hiring preference to Navajos.
“The Navajo Labor Commission, which enforces this Act, has jurisdiction over Bashas’ and has ordered Bashas’ to comply with this law or face sanction. Bashas’ signed leases with the Navajo Nation agreeing to be bound by Navajo law, including the Navajo Preference in Employment Act. The leases signed by Bashas’ and the Navajo Nation were also signed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs representing the U.S. Federal Government.”
The EEOC claims Bashas’ is a nontribal business and therefore still has to follow US laws. “The federal laws exempt Native American tribes if they are conducting the business,” EEOC trial attorney Lucy Rosas said, according to the Tribune report. “If it’s a private company doing business on a reservation, that company is still subject to federal laws including Title VII. They can have an (American) Indian preference but not a tribal preference.”