By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tribal employees will be protected from reprisals or retaliatory treatment if they are whistleblowers on illegal activity due to new legislation. Tribal Council passed the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Ordinance Ord. No. 362 (2016) during Annual Council on Monday, Oct. 10.
“As anyone can probably see, this is nothing more than a protection for any of the employees or anyone that has something that they may want to talk about, or if they see something wrong, it’s up to them to report a wrongdoing and have some protection there for themselves,” Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith, who submitted the legislation, said during discussion on Monday. “It’s been through the Attorney General’s Office (tribal), and they’ve come to an agreement on everything that’s in there.”
He added, “We’ve talked with Internal Audit, and they’ve agreed to handle everything in it until we get something set up with the Employment Rights Office.”
The ordinance itself states there is a need to protect employees “who make disclosures evidencing illegal or improper government activities…”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy questioned Sec. 96-5 B of the ordinance which states, “This section shall not be construed to authorize the withholding of information from the Tribal Council or the taking of any personnel action against an employee who discloses information to Tribal Council.”
She commented, “I think that part should be stricken…we are not in the loop for personnel.” A move was not made to strike that portion however.
Rep. McCoy asked if the ordinance conflicted with the encoded EBCI Personnel Policy to which EBCI Attorney General Danny Davis replied, “This is a new provision. It sort of tracks North Carolina’s Retaliatory Discrimination part. So, it’s not part of the personnel policy. It’s a separate ordinance that we just placed in there.”
Rep. McCoy then noted, “They won’t be coming to Tribal Council members anymore, right? Because you’ll have to tell them that there’s a law in place. You follow the law.”
Rep. Smith retorted, “I think they’re always going to turn to your Council member, but we can help guide them in the right direction too, and there’s a process that will help them help us get their problems resolved and someone to listen to them other than us.”
Under the ordinance, which will become law if ratified by Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, tribal employees who feel they are victims of discrimination or retaliatory practices due to whistleblowing can file a complaint with Internal Audit within 180 days of the event. The legislation does caveat, “If the Office of Internal Audit is named in the complaint, then the Department of Justice shall investigate.”