Billings' 3G's Convenience Stores must pay a 59-year-old Native American man $7,000 after employees there refused to accept his tribal identification card as proof of his age.
Carl High Pine filed a complaint against 3G's after trying to buy a single serving bottle of sparkling wine and was told the store did not accept tribal IDs.
The complaint was filed with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry's Human Rights Bureau in May 2016. On March 17 the bureau gave notice to the parties that 3G's must pay High Pine $7,000 in compensation for the emotional distress of its discriminatory practice.
A lot of tribal members only have their tribal IDs, High Pine told The Gazette on Monday. They could drive hundreds of miles to come to Billings and get turned away, he said.
The store may no longer refuse to accept tribal ID cards unless the ID is either damaged or altered, or is in some other way invalid under Montana law. The stores may only ask for a secondary identification if the tribal ID card shows a photo of the person as a child.
If an ID is a refused, the store must keep a record of the time the ID was refused, and the reasons for the refusal, for up to a year.
On March 15, 2016, High Pine went to the 3G's Convenience Store at 4410 State Ave., and tried to purchase a single serving bottle of wine, according to documents filed with the Human Rights Bureau. High Pine gave the clerk at the store his Northern Cheyenne tribal ID, which was current and not damaged. The clerk said it didn't accept tribal IDs and asked if he had a Montana driver's license.
A woman, who High Pine believed was a supervisor, told him "We don't have to serve you. There's plenty of other stores you can go to."
High Pine used his Montana license to purchase the alcohol, but felt discriminated against. In his complaint to the Human Rights Bureau, he said he "interacted cautiously with the mainstream society in Billings, which was predominantly white, because of his view of the treatment he and his people had received and were still receiving."
About a week later, High Pine took a photo of a sign next to the cash register which said "3G's will not accept these forms of ID for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco," which included "broken or taped ID, expired ID, paper copies, out of state ID, tribal ID, military ID."
Having that sign was like having a sign that said, "No Indians allowed," High Pine said.
3G's store owners Larry Grosulak and Operations Officer Dan Grosulak both attended the discrimination hearing. Both testified the 3G's ID policy was not reflected in the sign, but the sign was meant to help staff refuse an ID. The store's policy is to support its employees when they refuse an ID in order to make sure all purchases are valid.
Dan Grosulak said employees are not trained to refuse tribal IDs.
The employee who refused to accept High Pine's ID did not testify at a January hearing, according to an administrative decision by the bureau.
The stores will have to consult with the Human Rights Bureau to implement a training program in how to respond to tribal IDs.
3G's may no longer display signs stating they reserve the right to refuse tribal IDs, because it is illegal. After High Pine made his complaint, 3G's changed its signs to state the store could ask for a secondary ID if a tribal ID was presented. But that was still illegal, the bureau said.
The bureau urged 3G's to consult with an attorney about the store's policies, procedures, signage and advertising.
Jennifer Perez Cole was an advocate for High Pine and helped him through the complaint process. She is the daughter of former Poplar legislator Margaret Campbell, who sponsored a bill that created a 2007 law requiring businesses to treat tribal IDs like state IDs.
That was 10 years ago, but businesses are still treating tribal IDs like they're not a valid form of ID, Cole said. Because tribal IDs are only issued to tribal members, treating the IDs differently is insulting, Cole said.
We want people to follow the law, Cole said. Cole does this advocacy as a volunteer, helping people navigate the process of filing a complaint to make businesses comply with the law.
A website was set up by the state after the law was passed with more information about Montana tribal IDs.
People may contact the Montana Human Rights Bureau to file a discrimination complaint within 180 days of the date of alleged discrimination by calling either 406-444-2884 or 1-800-542-0807.