Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Civil Rights

Committed to equality in transportation service

Tribal Employment Overview

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) embraces the sovereign status, history, and cultural contributions of Tribal Nations in Minnesota. Furthermore, the agency, through the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), promotes and encourages Indian employment on transportation projects on or near reservations. This commitment to maximizing employment opportunities for American Indians is authorized by the federal regulations (23 USC §140(d)), and expressed in the Special Provisions Relating to Indian Employment.

The information below provides some essential background information on tribal employment as it relates to highway construction.

What is TERO?

Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance, Tribal Employment Rights Office, and Tribal Employment Rights Officer are often times referred to as TERO.

Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance

The Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance (TERO) requires all employers conducting business on reservations to give preference to qualified American Indians in all aspects of employment, contracting, and other business activities. The TERO Office monitors and enforces the requirements of the TERO ordinance.

Tribal Employment Rights Office

Administrative center through which tribal nations implement and enforce both the employment and labor provisions of their respective TERO ordinances.

Tribal Employment Rights Officer

Monitor and enforce the requirements of their respective ordinances.

What is the purpose of TERO?

The TERO program enforces tribally enacted American Indian preference law, which ensures American Indians gain their rightful share of employment, training, contracting, subcontracting, and business opportunities occurring on or near reservations.

What is TERO designed to do?

  • Address the high rates of poverty, unemployment, and underemployment that exist among native people living on reservations.
  • Eliminate discriminatory and other historical barriers tribal members face while seeking employment and business opportunities on or near reservations.
  • Ensure tribal members receive their rightful entitlements as intended and required under the tribal and federal Indian preference employment law.
  • Provide access to training and employment opportunities.

What is Indian preference?

A unique legal right that entitles American Indians to first consideration for all employment, training, contracting, subcontracting, and business opportunities occurring on or near reservations.

Is Indian preference legal?

There are no federal laws prohibiting Indian preference. Tribes are exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and several other major federal employment laws. Court rulings have held that Indian preference is a political preference, not a racial preference. Thus, it does not violate federal employment law.

What is a TERO tax?

A TERO tax is the assessment a contractor must pay on highway-heavy construction projects occurring anywhere on tribal land.

What is a TERO fee?

A TERO fee is the assessment that a contractor may pay to a tribe for providing employment-related services in conjunction with highway-heavy construction projects.

Are TERO taxes always imposed on contractors?

Most tribes impose a TERO tax on all employers doing business on reservations. Some tribes only impose a TERO tax on projects with dollar values above a certain threshold.

Are all TERO taxes the same?

No, each tribe is different.

How do tribes use TERO taxes?

Tribes use TERO taxes to finance operational costs and program services. Services include: recruiting, referrals, screening, training opportunities, job counseling, orientations, employee support services, compliance, charge processing, investigations, and community awareness education sessions.

What do the Special Provisions Relating to Indian Employment require?

The Special Provisions require contractors to work with the tribal government to use American Indian labor in performing contract work. This means contacting the tribe’s TERO officer or tribal employment representative to identify American Indian employment opportunities. The TERO contact information is within the contract Special Provisions or the Minnesota Tribal Government Employment List (PDF).

Contractors are also required to submit the “MnDOT Indian Employment Tracking Form” to MnDOT Office of Civil Rights no later than 30 days after project acceptance. The form must list all American Indians hired for the project by the contractor after being referred by the TERO officer/tribal employment representative.

When are the Special Provisions included in a contract?

The Special Provisions are included when a project is located on or near a reservation. The Federal Highway Administration considers a project to be “near” a reservation when it is located “within a reasonable commuting distance.”

What if the project is only partially located on a reservation?

When the project is partially on the reservation, the contractor must comply with those portions of the TERO ordinance requiring payment of a TERO tax or use of an Indian preference in employment. The Contractor must contact the TERO officer or tribal employment representative to determine the specific TERO tax and Indian employment preference requirements before submitting a project bid.