According to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, even self-governed tribal land must obey the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). In National Labor Relations Board v. Casino Pauma, the circuit court stated that the casino violated the NLRA by attempting to limit protected union activity.
Under the NLRA, employees have the right to engage in specified protected activities relating to improving or discussing working conditions, free of employer retaliation or adverse action. At Casino Pauma, operated by the Pauma Band of Mission Indians and located on the tribe’s reservation, a number of casino workers began distributing union leaflets to customers entering the casino. The employees were originally removed by security. When they attempted to distribute leaflets some weeks later, the employees were disciplined.
The NLRB filed a complaint on behalf of the employees. An administrative law judge found that the casino violated the NLRA by attempting to interfere with protected union activities, and the circuit court agreed, stating that the NLRA applies to tribal employers.