Litigation | Opinion

Dennis Whittlesey: Judges disagree on labor law at casinos




The Saginaw Chippewa Tribe owns and operates the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Photo from Facebook

Attorney Dennis J. Whittlesey addresses a split among judges on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the application of federal labor law at tribal casinos:
Two separate three-judge panels of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit have rendered labor law decisions concerning Indian casinos in Michigan only 22 days apart. While each of the panels ruled that the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") can assert jurisdiction over tribal casinos, the situation can best be described as "unsettled or even confusing."

While each of the panels ruled against the tribal casinos, four of the six judges stated clearly that they disagreed with that conclusion as a matter of law.

Given the development of these parallel rulings and the fact that a majority of judges disagreed with the decisions rendered, it seems inevitable that at least one (if not both) of these cases will be heard by the full Sixth Circuit in an en banc review and decision.

The first case involved the NLRB and Little River Band of Ottawa Indian Tribal Government and was decided on June 9 in a 2-1 split of the panel. The second case involved the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, an enterprise of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, and was decided on July 1 in another 2-1 split. However, the current debate arising from these two decisions springs from the fact that of the six judges who heard the two cases, four of them expressed serious doubts about the legal rationale for the decisions and, consequently, the outcome.

Get the Story:
Dennis J. Whittlesey: The Intersection Of Federal Labor Law, Tribal Gaming And A Deep Division Within Two Sixth Circuit Three-Judge Panels (Mondaq.com 7/23)

6th Circuit Decisions:
Soaring Eagle Casino v. NLRB (July 1, 2015)
NLRB v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (June 9, 2015)

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