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Court joins Navajo Nation in discrimination case

The Navajo Nation must answer to an employment discrimination suit brought against Peabody Coal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

The tribe signed leases with Peabody that contain a Navajo hiring preference. Two members of the Hopi Tribe and a deceased member of the Otoe Tribe challenged the provision, saying it was discriminatory.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule on the merits of that claim. But in a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel said the Navajo Nation has to be joined in the case because it was brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency.

"Because the EEOC is an agency of the United States, the Navajo Nation cannot assert its sovereign immunity," the court wrote.

The Navajo Nation isn't likely to face any action, the court acknowledged. But since it is a necessary party to the Peabody leases, it has to abide by a final decision in the case.

The court sent the suit back to a federal judge for further proceedings.

Get the Decision:
EEOC v. Peabody (March 10, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Navajo Nation -
Hopi Tribe -

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