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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Justice Department Sues South Dakota State Agency for Discrimination Against Native American Job Applicants at Pine Ridge Reservation

DOJ Sues S. Dakota DSS for Discrimination Against Tribal Job Applicants


DOJ Press release here.

The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) alleging that at its Pine Ridge Reservation Office, the state agency repeatedly discriminated against Native American job applicants because of their race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota, alleges that in failing to select well-qualified Native American applicants for several positions in DSS’s Pine Ridge Reservation Office, the state agency engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal statute that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion.

“Federal law provides all Americans with equal opportunity to compete for jobs on a level playing field free from racial discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division.  “When employers discriminate against qualified job applicants because of what they look like or where they come from, they violate both the values that shape our nation and the laws that govern it.”

U.S. v. S.D. DSS Complaint here.
According to the complaint, in October 2010, Cedric Goodman, a Native American with supervisory experience as a social worker, as well as several other well-qualified Native Americans, applied for an Employment Specialist position at DSS’s Pine Ridge Office.  The complaint alleges that after interviewing Goodman and the other Native American candidates who met the employer’s objective job qualifications, DSS removed the vacancy and hired no one.  The next day, however, DSS reopened the position and ultimately selected a white applicant with inferior qualifications and no similar work experience.  The complaint alleges that DSS discriminated against Goodman and other similarly-situated Native American applicants based on their race.
In addition, the complaint alleges that denying Goodman’s application was part of a pattern or practice of race discrimination by DSS, where the agency repeatedly removed job postings and used subjective, arbitrary hiring practices to reject qualified Native American applicants for Specialist positions.
Over a two year period beginning in 2010, DSS posted 18 Specialist vacancies for its Pine Ridge Reservation Office.  Even though the agency received nearly 40 percent of its applications from Native Americans, DSS hired 11 Whites and only one Native American, while removing six other openings entirely.

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Detailed discussion of the Bering Strait theory and other scientific theories about the population of the modern-day Americas is beyond the scope of this essay. However, it should be noted that Indian people have expressed suspicion that DNA analysis is a tool that scientists will use to support theories about the origins of tribal people that contradict tribal oral histories and origin stories. Perhaps more important,the alternative origin stories of scientists are seen as intending to weaken tribal land and other legal claims (and even diminish a history of colonialism?) that are supported in U.S. federal and tribal law. As genetic evidence has already been used to resolve land conflicts in Asian and Eastern European countries, this is not an unfounded fear.

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