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American Indians and Alaskan Natives in the American Workforce

As part of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) year-long 50th anniversary celebration, the agency has released American Experiences versus American Expectations, a report that illustrates the significant changes to the demographics of the American workforce since EEOC opened its doors in 1965. The report, which also highlights continuing challenges in our workforce demographics, uses EEO-1 data to track employment participation from 1966 to 2013 for several demographic groups, including American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

Beginning in 1966, all employers with 100 or more employees (lower thresholds apply to federal contractors) have been required by law to file an Employer Information Report EEO-1 with EEOC. In fiscal year 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, approximately 70,000 employers filed reports indicating the composition of their workforce by sex, race/ethnicity, and major job categories. (For more information about the EEO-1 and job categories, please see http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo1survey/index.cfm.) 

American Experiences versus American Expectations reveals several noteworthy trends concerning the American Indian/Alaskan Native experiences in the workforce:

Participation Rate for American Indian/Alaskan Native Professionals from 1966 - 2013
  • American Indians or Alaskan Natives, with the exception of those in the Service Workers category in 1984, reported less than a 1 percent participation rate in each of the nine job categories.
  • The number of American Indians or Alaskan Natives who worked as Officials and Managers rose steadily from the first report in 1966 through the latest in 2013. However, the percentage of Officials and Managers who were American Indian or Alaskan Native stayed roughly the same from 1984 through 2013.
  • The number of American Indian and Alaskan Native Professionals increased dramatically from 1,686 in 1966 to 44,511 in 2013. However, the overall number of Professionals also increased, so the percentages of American Indian and Alaskan Native Professionals rose from 0.10 percent in 1966 to 0.38 percent in 2013.
  • The percentage of American Indian and Alaskan Native Service Workers peaked in 1984 at 1.42 percent, the only participation rate for this demographic group to reach above one percent in all job categories from 1966 to 2013. The actual number of these Service Workers rose from 5,415 in 1966 to its highest number of 67,440 in 2013. By 2013, however, the percentage of all Service Workers who were American Indian and Alaskan Native had dropped to 0.67%, less than half of its peak in 1984.

By comparison, between 1966 and 2013, American Indian and Alaskan Native participation rates in the workforce increased from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent (2013 EEO-1 Indicators report). In 2013, the United States' 5.2 million American Indians and Alaskan Natives made up roughly 2 percent of the population. Of this total, about 49 percent were American Indian and Alaskan Native only, and about 51 percent were American Indian and Alaskan Native in combination with one or more other race. Despite the gains in employment made by American Indian and Alaskan Natives in the last 50 years, the annual median earnings of single-race American Indian and Alaskan Native households in 2013 was $36,252, compared with the national median earnings at $52,176.

EEOC's Efforts to Address Discrimination in Coordination with Tribal Employment Rights Offices

EEOC is responsible for enforcing, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race or national origin in any aspect of employment.  However, businesses owned by American Indian or Alaskan Native tribes are not covered by Title VII. This means that a tribal business does not have to file EEO-1 reports, even if it employs more than 100 people. Thus, the EEO-1 reports do not include the numbers of American Indians and Alaskan Natives working for tribal businesses.

Since 1980, EEOC has worked with Tribal Employment Rights Offices (TEROs) to protect the employment rights of American Indians and Alaskan Natives. In 2012, the Commission unanimously approved a model plan to help American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes partner with EEOC to combat employment discrimination. The model Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allows EEOC district offices and eligible individual American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes to coordinate investigations, share information, and provide reciprocal training in their mutual efforts to eradicate employment discrimination should they enter into the agreement. Tribes are eligible to participate in an MOU as long as they have an ordinance prohibiting employment discrimination on their reservation or lands that sets forth procedures for addressing allegations of unlawful employment discrimination and a TERO with the power and resources to enforce the tribe's non-discrimination ordinance. More information on EEOC and discrimination can be found here: www.eeoc.gov.