Split Ninth Circuit Panel Finds Colorable Navajo Labor Commission Jurisdiction over Window Rock School District

Here is the opinion in Window Rock School District v. Nez.

An excerpt from the court’s syllabus:

The panel held that it was “colorable or plausible” that the tribal adjudicative forum, the Navajo Nation Labor Commission, had jurisdiction because the claims arose from conduct on tribal land over which the Navajo Nation had the right to exclude nonmembers, and the claims implicated no state criminal law enforcement interests. Well-established exhaustion principles therefore required that the tribal forum have the first opportunity to evaluate its own jurisdiction, including the nature of the state and tribal interests involved.

Briefs and lower court materials here.

Ninth Circuit Oral Argument in Window Rock Unified School District v. Nez (Formerly Reeves)


Briefs and lower court materials here.

Ninth Circuit Briefs in Challenge to Navajo Labor Jurisdiction over Window Rock Unified School District

Here are the briefs in Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves:

Reeves Opening Brief

Navajo Nation Labor Commission Opening Brief

Navajo Nation Supreme Court Amicus Brief

Window Rock Answer Brief

Navajo Nation Labor Commission Reply Brief

Lower court materials here.

Federal Court Holds Navajo Nation Labor Commission Has No Jurisdiction over Window Rock Public Schools

Here are the materials in Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves (D. Ariz.):

DCT Order Granting Summary J to School District

NNLC Motion to Dismiss

Window Rock Response

NNLC Reply

Window Rock Reply

We posted the complaint here.

Window Rock School District Sues to Enjoin Navajo Labor Commission Actions

Here is the complaint.

Here are the materials in a similar case, Red Mesa USD v. Yellowhair, decided in 2010.

Navajo SCT Decision Reversing Navajo Labor Commission on Termination of Law Firm Staff Member

Here is the Navajo Nation Supreme Court’s opinion in Rosenfelt & Buffington v. Johnson. From the court’s syllabus:

In this appeal of a Navajo Nation Labor Commission’s finding that termination of an employee was not for just cause because each of numerous violations were not substantial, and additionally progressive discipline was not imposed even though k’e measures through meetings were held with the employee for more than eight months, the Court reverses, discusses k’e measures, and sets the standard for substantial misconduct in cases of repeated minor violations.

And from the opinion itself:

When Appellant made its concerns about Appellee’s violations known to Appellee over the course of eight months through personal meetings and emails without imposing punishments, Appellant undertook a course of action in keeping with the Diné Fundamental Law, which emphasizes personal accountability through talking out, self-knowledge and self-correction. The Court notes that the situation presented to us also shows how little respect is accorded k’é measures by an employee when the employer undertakes such measures without also imposing punishments or threats of punishments. The employment workplace is where the people on the Navajo Nation now spend the larger share of our days in earning a living. This case illustrates that the societal change from family self-sufficiency (working independently to provide for one’s family) to wage earning (working for someone else) appears to have changed the perspective of some regarding the basic tenet of our culture that an individual voluntarily corrects errant conduct out of respect for others.

Unfortunately, self-accountability has not been smoothly translated to the modern workplace of employers, employees, paychecks and disciplinary sanctions. Appellee’s actions show a belief, apparently relying on an interpretation of how employment laws have evolved in our sister jurisdictions, that workplace violations require no corrective actions by an employee unless the employer has made a threat of future sanctions. While this state of workplace relationships may be acceptable in bilagaana jurisdictions, it is not the Diné way, nor will our laws support such a purely adversarial interpretation of employer-employee responsibilities to each other in the workplace when disputes occur.

Navajo Supreme Court Reverses $30K Emotional Distress Judgment against Tribal Police Dept.

Here is the opinion in Wauneka v. Navajo Dept. of Law Enforcement.

An excerpt:

This  case concems  an appeal  by  the Navajo Department of  Law Enforcement,  of  a May 26, 2009 Final Damages Order of  the Navajo Nation Labor Commission (Commission) in which the  Commission  awarded  a  police  officer  back  pay,  attorney’s  fees,  restoration  of  leave  hours; emotional  damages;  and  further,  imposed  civil  fines.

* * *

Based  on  the  above,  the  Court  REVERSES  the  Commission’s  award  of   $30,000  in emotional  damages,  and  AFFIRMS  the  Commission’s  imposition  of  $500  in  civil  fines.  The Court  further  LIFTS  the  stay  in  the  Window  Rock  District  Court  for  further  disposition consistent with this opinion.