Judge says state agency discriminated in reservation office
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota’s Department of Social Services discriminated against Native American job applicants at its Pine Ridge Indian Reservation office during a five-year period that ended in 2013, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Viken in late September sided with federal Justice Department attorneys regarding the second part of a two-part lawsuit that argued the state agency violated the federal Civil Rights Act, the Rapid City Journal reported.
The agency’s stated goal for an ideal candidate at Pine Ridge includes a college degree, prior case management experience, and “familiarity with the geography and culture of the Pine Ridge Reservation,” where 90 percent of the population self-identifies as Native American.
Justice Department attorneys argued that 20 of 24 people hired during the time frame in question were white.
Attorneys for the state argued that no statewide policy of hiring discrimination could be proven by looking just at the Pine Ridge office. They noted that Social Services had 64 offices statewide during the time frame the lawsuit addressed.
Viken rejected the state’s argument, saying that “courts permit an examination of discrimination both company-wide, within one or more facilities or within a single department of a business.”
The lawsuit’s other part involves specific claims by people and is headed to trial.