Office of Navajo Labor Relations under attack

Navajo Council Naabik’iyati Committee now on LEGISLATION 0109-14legislation 0109-14: Relating to Law and Order, Health, Education and Human Services, Naabik’iyati’ and Navajo Nation Council; Amending Navajo Preference in Employment Act at 15 N.N.C. §§ 605, 610 and 612; Enacting New Section 614; and Redesignating
Sections 615 through 620 (Sponsor: Honorable Dwight Witherspoon)

employee can go to two different places regarding disciplinary action: go thru administrative process where file with supervisor, personnel office, Office of Hearings and Appeals, tribal Supreme Court but there are strict time lines. With Office of Navajo Labor Relations, timelines are not as strict and when complaint filed the ONL has 6 months to investigate and appeals to Supreme Court has no timeline. And during this process with ONLR, the position of the tribal employees who is in the ONLR process remains on hold. Positions in programs are frozen. And tribal employees can also file in ONLR if he or she loses in Office of Hearings and Appeals.

This could result in a legal challenge because 0109-14 cuts Navajo employees out of ONLR and 0109-14 also opens the door for non-Navajos to file grievances using Navajo Preference in Employment Act. But perhaps NPEA needs to be re-examined because its being taken off rez. It’s not serving Navajo Nation. Poor Mark Grant, poor Controller, he takes personnel action and he’s immediately dragged thru ONLR. I’ve been subjected to that, legislative staff threatened to take me to ONLR and I said I’ll drive u and help u fill our complaint. Division of Transportation went to another division and asked for signature and that director said no, i’m not going to sign. NDOT went back a second time and that director accused NDOT of harrassment and threatened to use ONLR. Tribal employees are using ONLR in the wrong way. Supervisors are saying that it’s not worth it to discipline an employee cuz employee will start dragging supervisor around. We also need to seriously re-examine “just cause” portion. And I’m asking Chief Legislative Counsel Henry to provide justifying language because it will be appealed to the Navajo Supreme Court.

I support this legislation but i feel that we will just be addressing a part of the problem. the first problem that we ned to lok at and provide a solution for is outlined in Lawrence Ruzzo’s comments – the real problem has been tribal government failure to adequately fund ONLR. Now that Naabi has oversight over Tax matters, we can tax tribal employees and those tax dollars can provide these services for tribal employees. Not $700 a year but $5 a year.

the other issue is the private small businesses on Navajo rez. a year ago, a small business owner came to me, she was sued by part time employee. she let employee go as part of down sizing during winter months and that was business decision. ONLR demanded by subpoena power, records for past years. so she decided to pay employee off. is this kind of regime we want to encourage because of regulations. we need to hve fair and equitable way of economic development. and to have ONLR second guessing business decisions is not in best interest of business development.

I support. one thing I learned in all the controversial events is that you need to put on record your intent. There is process in our tribal government that tribal employees can and should use. by giving them two opportunities is unfair. perhaps Delegate Witherspoon can shorten ONLR timeline of one year to file complaint. Maybe 30 days to file.

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