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Tribal Employment Rights-TERO

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What is TERO?

TERO stands for Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance or Office. TEROs are developed and administered by federally-recognized Tribes under their inherent sovereign authority. TERO Ordinances require that all covered employers, who are engaged in operating a business or performing work on a reservation create opportunities and give preference to qualified Indians in all aspects of employment including contracting and other business activities. TERO Offices are established and empowered to assist, monitor and enforce the requirements of the tribal employment rights ordinance or code.

Do all Tribes have a TERO program?

No. A federally-recognized tribe as an inherent sovereign will vary in the application of strategies and policies to protect the employment rights of their tribal workforce.

What is the extent of TERO jurisdiction?

Federally-recognized tribes, through their sovereign status, apply TERO to covered employers operating within the exterior boundaries of the reservations as legally defined by treaty or legislation as well as within off-reservation trust lands. “Covered employers” is generally defined as any individual, business, company, entity, contractor or sub-contractor employing one or more persons. Some Tribes require TERO compliance for projects funded by the Tribe, regardless of their location.

Are any NDOT projects exempt from TERO?

Yes. Projects that use existing agency forces and that are conducted within NDOT ROW are not subject to TERO. The most common example of this is maintenance projects utilizing existing NDOT employees.

TERO Workforce Provisions

Tribal TERO laws apply to employers and contractors operating on reservations and/or tribal trust lands and require the use of the TERO workforce for all referrals and jobs, require application of preference in employment, training and provides employers/contractors with access to the TERO workforce and skills list. Many TERO Ordinances include a preference for tribal contractors. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) operates under the United States Code (USC) that does not allow a preference in contracting or subcontracting, though it does allow a hiring preference.

Who is empowered to speak for the Tribe on TERO Issues?

Each Tribe is unique. Some TERO Officers report to a TERO Commission that is appointed by their Tribal Council. Generally speaking, the TERO Officer is empowered by their Tribal Council to apply and enforce the TERO Ordinance. When in doubt, ask the TERO Officer who, within the Tribe, has the authority to make a specific decision.

Who is responsible for enforcing TERO?

As sovereign nations, Tribes are responsible for enforcing their laws, including TERO. Tribal ordinances, Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) are laws that the contractor must comply with, and failure to do so is a violation of the contract as well as of the law itself. As the project owner, NDOT wants to ensure our contractors comply with all applicable laws. However, NDOT does not have the power to interpret application, negotiate or enforce the law itself. That must be done by the party empowered and trained to do so; such as the Tribe in the case of TERO.

If a TERO determines that an NDOT contractor is out of compliance, they should contact the Project Engineer. NDOT can work with the TERO or escalate the issue to help bring the contractor in compliance.

For additional information, please visit: FHWA Notice on Indian Preference in Employment on Federal-aid Highway Projects