BILLINGS (AP) – A Billings convenience store company must pay $7,000 to a 59-year-old Native American man after an employee refused to accept his tribal identification card as proof of his age when the man tried to buy a single-serving bottle of champagne, a Montana Human Rights Bureau hearings officer ruled.

Carl High Pine filed the discrimination complaint against 3G’s Convenience Stores after the March 2016 encounter at one of the company’s seven stores in Billings, The Billings Gazette reported.

High Pine said a clerk and a woman he believed was a supervisor refused to accept his Northern Cheyenne tribal ID. He used his Montana driver’s license to make the purchase, but noted that some tribal members don’t have state identification cards.

A 2007 law requires businesses to treat tribal IDs like state IDs, however High Pine took a picture of a sign near the checkout stand that listed the types of identification that 3G’s would not accept, including damaged, expired and tribal IDs.

3G’s owners Larry and Dan Grosulak testified during the January discrimination hearing that their stores’ ID policy was not reflected in the sign, but the sign was meant to help staff refuse an ID in order to make sure all purchases are valid.

“Making as ‘strong as possible’ a statement to support clerks working alone at night did not justify making an illegal statement of discriminatory intent and engaging in that illegal discrimination,” hearing officer Terry Spear wrote in his March 17 decision.

After High Pine made his complaint, 3G’s changed the sign to say the store could ask for a secondary ID if a tribal ID was presented. That, too, is illegal.

The Human Rights Bureau urged 3G’s to consult with an attorney about the store’s policies and signage and to consult with the bureau to implement a training program on how to respond to tribal IDs.

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