[Federal Register: March 7, 2001 (Volume 66, Number 45)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
Guidance to Federal Financial Assistance Recipients on the Title
VI Prohibition Against National Origin Discrimination Affecting Limited
English Proficient Persons
AGENCY: Department of the Treasury.
SUMMARY: The United States Department of the Treasury is publishing
policy guidance on Title VI's prohibition against national origin
discrimination as it affects limited English proficient persons.
DATES: This guidance is effective immediately. Comments must be
submitted on or before May 7, 3001. Treasury will review all comments
and will determine what modifications to the policy guidance, if any,
ADDRESSES: Interested persons should submit written comments to Ms.
Marcia H. Coates, Director, Office of Equal Opportunity Program,
Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 6071
Metropolitan Square, Washington, D.C. 20220; Comments may also be
submitted by e-mail to: OEOPWEB@do.treas.gov.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Hanberry at the Office of Equal
Opportunity Program, Department of the Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania
Avenue, NW, Room 6071 Metropolitan Square, Washington, D.C. 20220;
(202) 622-1170 voice, (202) 622-0321 TTY, (202) 622-0367 fax.
Arrangements to receive the policy in an alternative format may be made
by contacting Mr. Hanberry.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. 2000d, et seq. and its implementing regulations provide that no
person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of race,
color, or national origin under any program or activity that receives
federal financial assistance. The purpose of this policy guidance is to
clarify the responsibilities of recipients of federal financial
assistance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury (``recipients''),
and assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities to limited English
proficient (LEP) persons, pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 and implementing regulations. The policy guidance reiterates
the Federal government's longstanding position that in order to avoid
discrimination against LEP persons on the grounds of national origin,
recipients must take reasonable steps to ensure that such persons have
meaningful access to the programs, services, and information those
recipients provide, free of charge.
The text of the complete guidance document appears below.
Dated: February 22, 2001.
James J. Flyzik,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Management and Chief Information
Officer, United States Department of the Treasury.
On August 11, 2000, President Clinton signed Executive Order 13166,
``Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English
Proficiency.'' The purpose of this Executive Order is to eliminate to
the maximum extent possible limited English proficiency (LEP) as an
artificial barrier to full and meaningful participation in all
federally assisted programs and activities.
The EO requires that federal agencies draft Title VI guidance
specifically tailored to their recipients of federal financial
assistance, taking into account the types of services provided, the
individuals served, and the programs and activities assisted to ensure
that recipients provide meaningful access to their LEP applicants and
beneficiaries. To assist federal agencies in carrying out these
responsibilities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a Policy
Guidance Document, ``Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964--National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With Limited
English Proficiency (LEP Guidance)''. DOJ's LEP Guidance sets forth the
compliance standards that recipients of federal financial assistance
must follow to ensure that programs and activities normally provided in
English are accessible to LEP persons and thus do not discriminate on
the basis of national origin in violation of Title VI.
This document contains guidance to recipients of financial
assistance from the Department and its constituent bureaus. It is
consistent with DOJ's policy guidance and provides recipients of
Treasury assistance the necessary tools to assure language assistance
to LEP persons. It is also consistent with the government-wide Title VI
regulation issued by DOJ in 1976, ``Coordination of Enforcement of
Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs,'' 28 CFR Part 42,
Subpart F, that addresses the circumstances in which recipients must
provide written language assistance to LEP persons.\1\ This guidance
will be provided to all recipients of Treasury assistance to ensure
compliance with the nondiscrimination provisions of Title VI as it
applies to language proficiency.
\1\ The DOJ coordination regulations at 28 CFR 42.405(d)(1)
provide that ``[w]here a significant number or proportion of the
population eligible to be served or likely to be directly affected
by a federally assisted program (e.g., affected by relocation) needs
service or information in a language other than English in order
effectively to be informed of or to participate in the program, the
recipient shall take reasonable steps, considering the scope of the
program and the size and concentration of such population, to
provide information in appropriate languages to such persons. This
requirement applies with regard to written material of the type
which is ordinarily distributed to the public.''
English is the predominant language of the United States. According
to the 1990 Census, English is spoken by 95% of its residents. Of those
U.S. residents who speak languages other than English at home, the 1990
Census reports that 57% above the age of four speak English ``well to
The United States is also, however, home to millions of national
origin minority individuals who are ``limited English proficient''
(LEP). That is, their primary language is not English, and they cannot
speak, read, write or understand the English language at a level that
permits them to interact effectively. Because of these language
differences and their inability to speak or understand English, LEP
persons may be excluded from participation, experience delays or
denials of services, or receive services based on inaccurate or
incomplete information in Treasury assisted programs.
Some recipients have sought to bridge the language gap by
encouraging language minority clients to provide their own interpreters
as an alternative to the agency's use of qualified bilingual employees
or interpreters. Persons of limited English proficiency must sometimes
rely on their minor children to interpret for them during visits to a
service facility. Alternatively, these clients may be required to call
upon neighbors or even strangers they encounter at the provider's
office to act as interpreters or translators. These practices have
severe drawbacks and may violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
1964. (See Section D.6.(a) of this notice.)
In each case, the impediments to effective communication and
adequate service are formidable. The client's untrained ``interpreter''
is often unable to understand the concepts or official terminology he
or she is being asked to interpret or translate. Even if the
interpreter possesses the necessary language and comprehension skills,
his or her mere presence may obstruct the flow of confidential
information to the provider. For example, clients of an IRS Taxpayer
Clinic would naturally be reluctant to disclose or discuss personal
details concerning their taxes, through relatives, minor children, or
friends, in this IRS assisted program.
When these types of circumstances are encountered, the level and
quality of services available to persons of limited English proficiency
stand in stark contrast to Title VI's promise of equal access to
federally assisted programs and activities. Services denied, delayed or
provided under adverse circumstances for an LEP person may constitute
discrimination on the basis of national origin, in violation of Title
VI. Numerous federal laws require the provision of language assistance
to LEP individuals seeking to access critical services and activities.
For instance, the Voting Rights Act bans English-only elections in
certain circumstances and outlines specific measures that must be taken
to ensure that language minorities can participate in elections. See 42
U.S.C. 1973 b(f)(1). Similarly, the Food Stamp Act of 1977 requires
states to provide written and oral language assistance to LEP persons
under certain circumstances. 42 U.S.C. 2020(e)(1) and (2). These and
other provisions reflect the judgment that providers of critical
services and benefits bear the responsibility for ensuring that LEP
individuals can meaningfully access their programs and services.
C. Legal Authority
Over the last 30 years, federal agencies have conducted thousands
of investigations and reviews involving language differences that
impede the access of LEP persons to services. Where the failure to
accommodate language differences discriminates on the basis of national
origin, federal law has required recipients to provide appropriate
language assistance to LEP persons. For example, one of the largest
providers of federal financial assistance, the Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) has entered into voluntary compliance agreements
and consent decrees that require recipients who operate health and
social service programs to ensure that there are bilingual employees or
language interpreters to meet the needs of LEP persons seeking HHS
services. HHS has also required these recipients to provide written
materials and post notices in languages other than English. See Mendoza
v. Lavine, 412 F.Supp. 1105 (S.D.N.Y. 1976); and Asociacion Mixta
Progresista v. H.E.W., Civil Number C72-882 (N.D. Cal. 1976). The legal
authority for Treasury's enforcement actions is Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, DOJ's government-wide implementing regulation for
Order 12250, the August 11, 2000 DOJ LEP Guidance, and a consistent
body of case law, which are described below.
2. Statute and Regulation
Section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
section 2000d et seq. states: ``No person in the United States shall,
on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal
Treasury is in the process of drafting its own Title VI regulations
consistent with the model regulations provided by DOJ, which require
(a) A recipient under any program to which these regulations apply,
may not, directly or through contractual or other arrangements, on
grounds of race, color, or national origin:
(i) Deny an individual any service, financial aid, or other benefit
provided under the program;
(ii) Provide any service, financial aid, or other benefit to an
individual which is different, or is provided in a different manner,
from that provided to others under the program;
(b) A recipient, in determining the types of services, financial
aid, or other benefits, or facilities which will be provided under any
such program or the class of individuals to whom, or the situations in
which such services, financial aid or other benefits, or facilities
will be provided * * * may not directly, or through contractual or
other arrangements, utilize criteria or methods of administration which
have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination, because of
their race, color or national origin, or have the effect of defeating
or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the
program with respect to individuals of a particular, race, color or
national origin.'' (Emphasis added.)
3. Case Law
Extensive case law affirms the obligation of recipients of federal
financial assistance to ensure that LEP persons can meaningfully access
federally assisted programs.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Lau v. Nichols, 414 U.S. 563 (1974),
recognized that recipients of federal financial assistance have an
affirmative responsibility, pursuant to Title VI, to provide LEP
persons with a meaningful opportunity to participate in public
programs. In Lau, the Supreme Court ruled that a public school system's
failure to provide English language instruction to students of Chinese
ancestry who do not speak English denied the students a meaningful
opportunity to participate in a public educational program in violation
of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As early as 1926, the Supreme Court recognized that language rules
were often discriminatory. In Yu Cong Eng et al. v. Trinidad, Collector
of Internal Revenue, 271 U.S. 500 (1926), the Supreme Court found that
a Philippine Bookkeeping Act that prohibited the keeping of accounts in
languages other than English, Spanish and Philippine dialects violated
the Philippine Bill of Rights that Congress had patterned after the
U.S. Constitution. The Court found that the Act deprived Chinese
merchants, who were unable to read, write or understand the required
languages, of liberty and property without due process. In Gutierrez v.
Municipal Court of S.E. Judicial District, 838 F.2d 1031,1039 (9th Cir.
1988), vacated as moot, 490 U.S. 1016 (1989), the court recognized that
requiring the use of English only is often used to mask national origin
discrimination. Citing McArthur, Worried About Something Else, 60 Int'l
J. Soc. Language, 87, 90-91 (1986), the court stated that because
language and accents are identifying characteristics, rules that have a
negative effect on bilingual persons, individuals with accents, or non-
English speakers may be mere pretexts for intentional national origin
Another case that noted the link between language and national
origin discrimination is Garcia v. Gloor, 618 F.2d 264 (5th Cir. 1980)
cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1113 (1981). The court found that on the facts
before it a workplace English-only rule did not discriminate on the
basis of national origin since the complaining employees were
bilingual. However, the court stated that ``to a person who speaks only
one tongue or to a person who has difficulty using another language
other than the one spoken in his home, language might well be an
immutable characteristic like skin color, sex or place of birth.'' Id.
The Fifth Circuit addressed language as an impermissible barrier to
participation in society in U.S. v. Uvalde Consolidated Independent
School District, 625 F.2d 547 (5th Cir. 1980). The court upheld an
amendment to the Voting Rights Act which addressed concerns about
language minorities, the protections they were to receive, and
eliminated discrimination against them by prohibiting English-only
Most recently, in Sandoval v. Hagan, 7 F. Supp. 2d 1234 (M.D. Ala.
1998), affirmed, 197 F.3d 484, (11th Cir. 1999), petition for
certiorari granted, Alexander v. Sandoval 121 S. Ct. 28 (Sept. 26,
2000)(No. 99-1908), the Eleventh Circuit held that the State of
Alabama's policy of administering a driver's license examination in
English only was a facially neutral practice that had an adverse effect
on the basis of national origin, in violation of Title VI. The court
specifically noted the nexus between language policies and potential
discrimination based on national origin. That is, in Sandoval, the vast
majority of individuals who were adversely affected by Alabama's
English-only driver's license examination policy were national origin
4. Department of Justice August 11, 2000 LEP Guidance
This Guidance is issued in compliance with EO 13166 and its
requirement that agencies providing federal financial assistance
provide guidance to recipients that is consistent with DOJ's August 11,
2000 LEP Guidance. That Guidance sets forth the compliance standards
that recipients of federal financial assistance must follow to ensure
that programs and activities are meaningfully accessible to LEP persons
and thus do not discriminate on the basis of national origin in
violation of Title VI. A recipient's policies or practices regarding
the provision of benefits and services to LEP persons need not be
intentional to be discriminatory, but may constitute a violation of
Title VI if they have an adverse effect on the ability of national
origin minorities to meaningfully access programs and services.
Accordingly, it is important for recipients to examine their policies
and practices to determine whether they adversely affect LEP persons.
This policy guidance provides a legal framework to assist recipients in
conducting such assessments.
D. Policy Guidance
All entities that receive federal financial assistance from
Treasury either directly or indirectly, through a grant, contract or
subcontract, are covered by this policy guidance. The term ``federal
financial assistance'' to which Title VI applies includes but is not
limited to grants and loans of federal funds, grants or donations of
federal property, details of federal personnel, or any agreement,
arrangement or other contract which has as one of its purposes the
provision of assistance.
Title VI prohibits discrimination in any program or activity that
receives federal financial assistance. What
constitutes a program or activity covered by Title VI was clarified by
Congress in 1988, when the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 (CRRA)
was enacted. The CRRA provides that, in most cases, when a recipient
receives federal financial assistance for a particular program or
activity, all operations of the recipient are covered by Title VI, not
just the part of the program that uses the federal assistance. Thus,
all parts of the recipient's operations would be covered by Title VI,
even if the federal assistance is used only by one part.
2. Basic Requirements Under Title VI
A recipient whose policies, practices, or procedures exclude,
limit, or have the effect of excluding or limiting, the participation
of any LEP person in a federally assisted program on the basis of
national origin may be engaged in discrimination in violation of Title
VI. In order to ensure compliance with Title VI, recipients must take
steps to ensure that LEP persons who are eligible for their programs or
services have meaningful access to the services, information, and
benefits that they provide. The most important step in meeting this
obligation is for recipients of Treasury financial assistance to
provide the language assistance necessary to ensure such access, at no
cost to the LEP person.
The type of language assistance a recipient/covered entity provides
to ensure meaningful access will depend on a variety of factors,
including the total resources and size of the recipient/covered entity,
the number or proportion of the eligible LEP population it serves, the
nature and importance of the program or service, including the
objectives of the program, the frequency with which particular
languages are encountered, and the frequency with which LEP persons
come into contact with the program. These factors are consistent with
and incorporate the standards set forth in the Department of Justice
``Policy Guidance Document: on Enforcement of Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964--National Origin Discrimination Against Persons With
Limited English Proficiency (LEP Guidance),'' reprinted at 65 FR 50123
(August 16, 2000). There is no ``one size fits all'' solution for Title
VI compliance with respect to LEP persons. Treasury will make its
assessment of the language assistance needed to ensure meaningful
access on a case by case basis, and a recipient will have considerable
flexibility in determining precisely how to fulfill this obligation.
Treasury will focus on the end result--whether the recipient has taken
the necessary steps to ensure that LEP persons have meaningful access
to its programs and services.
The key to providing meaningful access for LEP persons is to ensure
that the recipient and LEP person can communicate effectively. The
steps taken by a covered entity must ensure that the LEP person is
given adequate information, is able to understand the services and
benefits available, and is able to receive those for which he or she is
eligible. The covered entity must also ensure that the LEP person can
effectively communicate the relevant circumstances of his or her
situation to the service provider.
Experience has shown that effective language assistance programs
usually contain the four measures described in Section 4 below. In
reviewing complaints and conducting compliance reviews, Treasury will
consider a program to be in compliance when the recipient effectively
incorporates and implements these four elements. The failure to
incorporate or implement one or more of these elements does not
necessarily mean noncompliance with Title VI, and Treasury will review
the totality of the circumstances to determine whether LEP persons can
meaningfully access the services and benefits of the recipient.
3. State or Local ``English-Only'' Laws
State or local ``English-only'' laws do not change the fact that
recipients cannot discriminate in violation of Title VI. Entities in
states and localities with ``English-only'' laws do not have to accept
federal funding. However, if they do, they have to comply with Title
VI, including its prohibition against national origin discrimination by
4. Ensuring Meaningful Access to LEP Persons
(a) The Four Keys to Title VI Compliance in the LEP Context
The key to providing meaningful access to benefits and services for
LEP persons is to ensure that the language assistance provided results
in accurate and effective communication between the provider and LEP
applicant/client about the types of services and/or benefits available
and about the applicant's or client's circumstances. Although Treasury
recipients have considerable flexibility in fulfilling this obligation,
effective programs usually have the following four elements:
Assessment--The recipient conducts a thorough assessment
of the language needs of the population to be served;
Development of Comprehensive Written Policy on Language
Access--The recipient develops and implements a comprehensive written
policy that will ensure meaningful communication;
Training of Staff--The recipient takes steps to ensure
that staff understand the policy and are capable of carrying it out;
Vigilant Monitoring--The recipient conducts regular
oversight of the language assistance program to ensure that LEP persons
meaningfully access the program.
If implementation of one or more of these measures would be so
financially burdensome as to defeat the legitimate objectives of a
recipient's program, or if the recipient utilizes an equally effective
alternative for ensuring that LEP persons have meaningful access to
programs and services, Treasury will not find the recipient in
noncompliance. However, recipients should gather and maintain
documentation to substantiate any assertion of financial burden.
The first key to ensuring meaningful access is for the recipient to
assess the language needs of the eligible population. A recipient
assesses language needs by identifying:
the number and proportion of LEP persons eligible to be
served or encountered by the recipient, the frequency of contact with
LEP language groups, the nature or importance of the activity, benefit,
or service, and the resources of the recipient.
the points of contact in the program or activity where
language assistance is likely to be needed.
the resources that will be needed to provide effective
the location and availability of these resources.
the arrangements that must be made to access these
resources in a timely fashion.
(c) Development of Comprehensive Written Policy on Language Access
A recipient can ensure effective communication by developing and
implementing a comprehensive written language assistance program. This
program should include: policies and procedures for identifying and
assessing the language needs of its LEP applicants/clients; a range of
oral language assistance options; notice to LEP persons in a language
they can understand of the right to free language assistance; periodic
training of staff; monitoring of the program; and
translation of written materials in certain circumstances.\2\
\1\ The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 both provide similar prohibitions against
discrimination on the basis of disability and require entities to
provide language assistance such as sign language interpreters for
hearing impaired individuals or alternative formats such as Braille,
large print or tape for vision impaired individuals. In developing a
comprehensive language assistance program, recipients should be
mindful of their responsibilities under the ADA and Section 504 to
ensure access to programs for individuals with disabilities.
(1) Oral Language Interpretation--In designing an effective
language assistance program, a recipient should develop procedures for
obtaining and providing trained and competent interpreters and other
oral language assistance services, in a timely manner, by taking some
or all of the following steps:
hiring bilingual staff who are trained and competent in
the skill of interpreting;
hiring staff interpreters who are trained and competent in
the skill of interpreting;
contracting with an outside interpreter service for
trained and competent interpreters;
arranging formally for the services of voluntary community
interpreters who are trained and competent in the skill of
arranging/contracting for the use of a telephone language
See Section D.6.(b) of this notice for a discussion on ``Competence
The following provides guidance to recipients in determining which
language assistance options will be of sufficient quantity and quality
to meet the needs of their LEP beneficiaries:
Bilingual Staff--Hiring bilingual staff for client contact
positions facilitates participation by LEP persons. However, where
there are a variety of LEP language groups in a recipient's service
area, this option may be insufficient to meet the needs of all LEP
applicants and clients. Where this option is insufficient to meet the
needs, the recipient must provide additional and timely language
assistance. Bilingual staff must be trained and must demonstrate
competence as interpreters.
Staff Interpreters--Paid staff interpreters are especially
appropriate where there is a frequent and/or regular need for
interpreting services. These persons must be competent and readily
Contract Interpreters--The use of contract interpreters
may be an option for recipients that have an infrequent need for
interpreting services, have less common LEP language groups in their
service areas, or need to supplement their in-house capabilities on an
as-needed basis. Such contract interpreters must be readily available
Community Volunteers--Use of community volunteers may
provide recipients with a cost-effective method for providing
interpreter services. However, experience has shown that to use
community volunteers effectively, recipients must ensure that formal
arrangements for interpreting services are made with community
organizations so that these organizations are not subjected to ad hoc
requests for assistance. In addition, recipients must ensure that these
volunteers are competent as interpreters and understand their
obligation to maintain client confidentiality. Additional language
assistance must be provided where competent volunteers are not readily
available during all hours of service.
Telephone Interpreter Lines--A telephone interpreter
service line may be a useful option as a supplemental system, or may be
useful when a recipient encounters a language that it cannot otherwise
accommodate. Such a service often offers interpreting assistance in
many different languages and usually can provide the service in quick
response to a request. However, recipients should be aware that such
services may not always have readily available interpreters who are
familiar with the terminology peculiar to the particular program or
service. It is important that a recipient not offer this as the only
language assistance option except where other language assistance
options are unavailable.
(2) Translation of Written Materials--An effective language
assistance program ensures that written materials that are routinely
provided in English to applicants, clients and the public are available
in regularly encountered languages other than English. It is
particularly important to ensure that vital documents are translated. A
document will be considered vital if it contains information that is
critical for accessing the services, rights, and/or benefits, or is
required by law. Thus, vital documents include, for example,
applications; consent forms; letters and notices pertaining to the
reduction, denial or termination of services or benefits; and letters
or notices that require a response from the beneficiary or client. For
instance, if a complaint form is necessary in order to file a claim
with an agency, that complaint form would be vital information. Non-
vital information includes documents that are not critical to access
such benefits and services.
As part of its overall language assistance program, a recipient
must develop and implement a plan to provide written materials in
languages other than English where a significant number or percentage
of the population eligible to be served or likely to be directly
affected by the program needs services or information in a language
other than English to communicate effectively. (See 28 CFR
42.405(d)(1)). Treasury will determine the extent of the recipient's
obligation to provide written translation of documents on a case by
case basis, taking into account all relevant circumstances, including:
(1) The nature, importance, and objective of the particular activity,
program, or service; (2) the number or proportion of LEP persons
eligible to be served or encountered by the recipient; (3) the
frequency with which translated documents are needed; and (4) the total
resources available to the recipient as compared to the length of the
document and cost of translation.
One way for a recipient to know with greater certainty that it will
be found in compliance with its obligation to provide written
translations in languages other than English is for the recipient to
meet the guidelines outlined in paragraphs (A) and (B) below, which
outline the circumstances that provide a ``safe harbor'' for
recipients. A recipient that provides written translations under these
circumstances can be confident that it will be found in compliance with
its obligation under Title VI regarding written translations.\3\
However, the failure to provide written translations under these
circumstances outlined in paragraphs (A) and (B) will not necessarily
mean noncompliance with Title VI.
\3\ The ``safe harbor'' provisions are not intended to establish
numerical thresholds for when a recipient must translate documents.
The numbers and percentages included in these provisions are based
on the balancing of a number of factors, including experience in
enforcing Title VI in the context of Treasury programs, and
Treasury's discussions with other agencies about experiences of
their grant recipients with language access issues.
In such situations, Treasury will review the totality of the
circumstances to determine the precise nature of a recipient's
obligation to provide written materials in languages other than English
as indicated earlier.
Treasury will consider a recipient to be in compliance with its
Title VI obligation to provide written materials in non-English
(A) The recipient provides translated written materials, including
documents, for each eligible LEP language group that constitutes ten
percent or 3,000, whichever is less, of the population of persons
eligible to be served or likely to be directly affected by the
recipient's program; \4\
\4\ See Section D.4.(c)(2) above for a description of vital
documents. Large documents, such as enrollment handbooks, may not
need to be translated in their entirety. However, vital information
contained in large documents must be translated.
(B) Regarding LEP language groups that do not fall within paragraph
(A) above, but constitute five percent or 1,000, whichever is less, of
the population of persons eligible to be served or likely to be
directly affected, the recipient ensures that, at a minimum, vital
documents are translated into the appropriate non-English languages of
such LEP persons. Translation of other documents, if needed, can be
provided orally; and
(C) Notwithstanding paragraphs (A) and (B) above, a recipient with
fewer than 100 persons in a language group eligible to be served or
likely to be directly affected by the recipient's program, does not
translate written materials but provides written notice in the primary
language of the LEP language group of the right to receive competent
oral translation of written materials.
The term ``persons eligible to be served or likely to be directly
affected'' relates to the issue of what is the recipient's service area
for purposes of meeting its Title VI obligation. There is no ``one size
fits all'' definition of what constitutes ``persons eligible to be
served or likely to be directly affected'' and Treasury will address
this issue on a case by case basis. Ordinarily, these persons are those
who are in the geographic area that has been approved by a federal
grant agency as the recipient's service area. Thus, for language groups
that do not fall within paragraphs (A) and (B), above, a recipient can
ensure access by providing written notice in the LEP person's primary
language of the right to receive free language assistance.
Recent technological advances have made it easier for recipients to
store translated documents readily. At the same time, Treasury
recognizes that recipients in a number of areas, such as many large
cities, regularly serve LEP persons from many different areas of the
world who speak dozens of different languages. It would be unduly
burdensome to demand that recipients in these circumstances translate
all written materials into these languages. As a result, Treasury will
determine the extent of the recipient's obligation to provide written
translations of documents on a case by case basis, looking at the
totality of the circumstances.
It is also important to ensure that the person translating the
materials is well qualified. In addition, in some circumstances
verbatim translation of materials may not accurately or appropriately
convey the substance of what is contained in the written materials. An
effective way to address this potential problem is to reach out to
community-based organizations to review translated materials to ensure
that they are accurate and easily understood by LEP persons.
(3) Methods for Providing Notice to LEP Persons--A vital part of a
well-functioning compliance program includes having effective methods
for notifying LEP persons of their right to language assistance and the
availability of such assistance free of charge. These methods include
but are not limited to:
Use of language identification cards that allow LEP
persons to identify their language needs to staff. To be effective, the
cards (e.g., ``I speak'' cards) must invite the LEP person to identify
the language he/she speaks.
Posting and maintaining signs in regularly encountered
languages other than English in waiting rooms, reception areas and
other initial points of entry. To be effective, these signs must inform
LEP persons of their right to free language assistance services and
invite them to identify themselves as persons needing such services.
Translation of application forms and instructional,
informational and other written materials into appropriate non-English
languages by competent translators. For LEP persons whose language does
not exist in written form, assistance from an interpreter to explain
the contents of the document.
Uniform procedures for timely and effective telephone
communication between staff and LEP persons. This must include
instructions for English-speaking employees to obtain assistance from
interpreters or bilingual staff when receiving calls from or initiating
calls to LEP persons.
Inclusion of statements about the services available and
the right to free language assistance services, in appropriate non-
English languages, in brochures, booklets, outreach and recruitment
information, and other materials that are routinely disseminated to the
(d) Training of Staff
Another vital element in ensuring that its policies are followed is
a recipient's dissemination of its policy to all employees likely to
have contact with LEP persons, and periodic training of these
employees. Effective training ensures that employees are knowledgeable
and aware of LEP policies and procedures, are trained to work
effectively with in-person and telephone interpreters, and understand
the dynamics of interpretation between clients, providers and
interpreters. It is important that this training be part of the
orientation for new employees and that all employees in client contact
positions be properly trained. Recipients may find it useful to
maintain a training registry that records the names and dates of
employees' training. Effective training is one means of ensuring that
there is not a gap between a recipient's written policies and
procedures, and the actual practices of employees who are in the front
lines interacting with LEP persons.
(e) Monitoring and Updating the LEP policy
Recipients should always consider whether new documents, programs,
services, and activities need to be made accessible for LEP
individuals. They should then provide needed language services and
notice of those services to the LEP public and to employees. In
addition, Treasury recipients should evaluate their entire language
policy at least every three years. One way to evaluate the LEP policy
is to seek feedback from the community. Recipients should assess:
Current LEP populations in service area.
Current communication needs of LEP individuals encountered
by the program.
Whether existing assistance is meeting the needs of such
Whether staff knows and understands the LEP policy and how
to implement it.
Whether identified sources for assistance are still
available and viable.
5. Treasury's Assessment of Meaningful Access
The failure to take all of the steps outlined in Section D (4),
above, will not necessarily mean that a recipient has failed to provide
meaningful access to LEP clients. The following are examples of how
meaningful access will be assessed by Treasury:
A small recipient has about 50 LEP Hispanic clients and a
small number of employees, and asserts that he cannot afford to hire
bilingual staff, contract with a professional interpreter service, or
translate written documents. To accommodate the language needs of LEP
clients, the recipient has made
arrangements with a Hispanic community organization for trained and
competent volunteer interpreters, and with a telephone interpreter
language line, to interpret during consultations and to orally
translate written documents. There have been no client complaints of
inordinate delays or other service related problems with respect to LEP
clients. Given the resources, the size of the staff, and the size of
the LEP population, Treasury would find this recipient in compliance
with Title VI.
A recipient with a large budget serves 500,000
beneficiaries. Of the beneficiaries eligible for services, 3,500 are
LEP Chinese persons, 4,000 are LEP Hispanic persons, 2,000 are LEP
Vietnamese persons and about 400 are LEP Laotian persons. The recipient
has no policy regarding language assistance to LEP persons, and LEP
clients are told to bring their own interpreters, are provided with
application and consent forms in English and if unaccompanied by their
own interpreters, must solicit the help of other clients or must return
at a later date with an interpreter. Given the size of this program,
its resources, the size of the eligible LEP population, and the nature
of the program, Treasury would likely find this recipient in violation
of Title VI and would likely require it to develop a comprehensive
language assistance program that includes all of the options discussed
in Section D.4. above.
Two recurring issues in the area of interpreter services involve
(a) the use of friends, family, or minor children as interpreters, and
(b) the need to ensure that interpreters are competent.
(a) Use of Friends, Family and Minor Children as Interpreters
A recipient may expose itself to liability under Title VI if it
requires, suggests, or encourages an LEP person to use friends, minor
children, or family members as interpreters, as this could compromise
the effectiveness of the service. Use of such persons could result in a
breach of confidentiality or reluctance on the part of individuals to
reveal personal information critical to their situations. In addition,
family and friends usually are not competent to act as interpreters,
since they are often insufficiently proficient in both languages,
unskilled in interpretation, and unfamiliar with specialized
If after a recipient informs an LEP person of the right to free
interpreter services, the person declines such services and requests
the use of a family member or friend, the recipient may use the family
member or friend, if the use of such a person would not compromise the
effectiveness of services or violate the LEP person's confidentiality.
The recipient should document the offer and decline in the LEP person's
file. Even if an LEP person elects to use a family member or friend,
the recipient should suggest that a trained interpreter sit in on the
encounter to ensure accurate interpretation.
(b) Competence of Interpreters
In order to provide effective services to LEP persons, a recipient
must ensure that it uses persons who are competent to provide
interpreter services. Competency does not necessarily mean formal
certification as an interpreter, though certification is helpful. On
the other hand, competency requires more than self-identification as
bilingual. The competency requirement contemplates demonstrated
proficiency in both English and the other language, orientation and
training that includes the skills and ethics of interpreting (e.g.,
issues of confidentiality), fundamental knowledge in both languages of
any specialized terms, or concepts peculiar to the recipient's program
or activity, sensitivity to the LEP person's culture and a demonstrated
ability to convey information in both languages, accurately. A
recipient must ensure that those persons it provides as interpreters
are trained and demonstrate competency as interpreters.
7. Examples of Prohibited Practices
Listed below are examples of practices which may violate Title VI:
Providing services to LEP persons that are more limited in
scope or are lower in quality than those provided to other persons, or
placing greater burdens on LEP than on non-LEP persons;
Subjecting LEP persons to unreasonable delays in the
delivery of services, or the provision of information on rights;
Limiting participation in a program or activity on the
basis of English proficiency;
Failing to inform LEP persons of the right to receive free
interpreter services and/or requiring LEP persons to provide their own
E. Promising Practices
In meeting the needs of their LEP clients, some recipients have
found unique ways of providing interpreter services and reaching out to
the LEP community. Examples of promising practices include the
Language Banks--In several parts of the country, both urban and
rural, community organizations and providers have created community
language banks that train, hire and dispatch competent interpreters to
participating organizations, reducing the need to have on-staff
interpreters for low demand languages. These language banks are
frequently nonprofit and charge reasonable rates.
Pamphlets--A recipient has created pamphlets in several languages,
entitled ``While Awaiting the Arrival of an Interpreter.'' The
pamphlets are intended to facilitate basic communication between
clients and staff. They are not intended to replace interpreters but
may aid in increasing the comfort level of LEP persons as they wait for
Use of Technology--Some recipients use their internet and/or
intranet capabilities to store translated documents online. These
documents can be retrieved as needed.
Telephone Information Lines--Recipients have established telephone
information lines in languages spoken by frequently encountered
language groups to instruct callers, in the non-English languages, on
how to leave a recorded message that will be answered by someone who
speaks the caller's language.
Signage and Other Outreach--Other recipients have provided
information about services, benefits, eligibility requirements, and the
availability of free language assistance, in appropriate languages by
(a) posting signs and placards with this information in public places
such as grocery stores, bus shelters and subway stations; (b) putting
notices in newspapers, and on radio and television stations that serve
LEP groups; (c) placing flyers and signs in the offices of community-
based organizations that serve large populations of LEP persons; and
(d) establishing information lines in appropriate languages.
F. Model Plan
The following example of a model language assistance program may be
useful for recipients in developing their plans. The plan incorporates
a variety of options and methods for providing meaningful access to LEP
A formal written language assistance program.
Identification and assessment of the languages that are
likely to be encountered and estimating the number of LEP persons that
are eligible for services and that are likely to be affected by its
program through a review of census and client utilization data and data
from school systems and community agencies and organizations.
Posting of signs in lobbies and in other waiting areas, in
several languages, informing applicants and clients of their right to
free interpreter services and inviting them to identify themselves as
persons needing language assistance.
Use of ``I speak'' cards by intake workers and other
contact personnel so that they can identify their primary languages.
Keeping the language of the LEP person in his/her record
if such a record would normally be kept for non-LEP persons so that all
staff can identify the language assistance needs of the client.
Employment of a sufficient number of staff, bilingual in
appropriate languages, in client contact positions. These persons must
be trained and competent as interpreters.
Contracts with interpreting services that can provide
competent interpreters in a wide variety of languages, in a timely
Formal arrangements with community groups for competent
and timely interpreter services by community volunteers.
An arrangement with a telephone language interpreter line.
Translation of application forms, instructional,
informational and other key documents into appropriate non-English
languages. Provision of oral interpreter assistance with documents, for
those persons whose language does not exist in written form.
Procedures for effective telephone communication between
staff and LEP persons, including instructions for English-speaking
employees to obtain assistance from bilingual staff or interpreters
when initiating or receiving calls from LEP persons.
Notice to and training of all staff, particularly client
contact staff, with respect to the recipient's Title VI obligation to
provide language assistance to LEP persons, and on the language
assistance policies and the procedures to be followed in securing such
assistance in a timely manner.
Insertion of notices, in appropriate languages, about the
right of LEP applicants and clients to free interpreters and other
language assistance, in brochures, pamphlets, manuals, and other
materials disseminated to the public and to staff.
Notice to the public regarding the language assistance
policies and procedures, and notice to and consultation with community
organizations that represent LEP language groups, regarding problems
and solutions, including standards and procedures for using their
members as interpreters.
Adoption of a procedure for the resolution of complaints
regarding the provision of language assistance; and for notifying
clients of their right to and how to file a complaint under Title VI
Appointment of a senior level employee to coordinate the
language assistance program, and assurance that there is regular
monitoring of the program.
G. Compliance and Enforcement
Treasury will enforce recipients' responsibilities to LEP
beneficiaries through procedures provided for in Title VI regulations.
These procedures include complaint investigations, compliance reviews,
efforts to secure voluntary compliance, and technical assistance.
Treasury will always provide recipients with the opportunity to come
into voluntary compliance prior to initiating formal enforcement
In determining compliance with Title VI, Treasury's concern will be
whether the recipient's policies and procedures allow LEP persons to
overcome language barriers and participate meaningfully in programs,
services and benefits. A recipient's appropriate use of the methods and
options discussed in this guidance will be viewed by Treasury as
evidence of a recipient's intent to comply with Title VI.
H. Complaint Process
Anyone who believes that he/she has been discriminated against
because of race, color or national origin in violation of Title VI may
file a complaint with Treasury within 180 days of the date on which the
discrimination took place. The following information should be
Your name and address (a telephone number where you may be
reached during business hours is helpful, but not required);
A general description of the person(s) or class of persons
injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s);
The name and location of the organization or institution
that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s);
A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in
sufficient detail to enable the Office of Equal Opportunity Program
(OEOP) to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for
the alleged discrimination.
The letter or form must be signed and dated by the
complainant or by someone authorized to do so on his or her behalf.
A recipient may not retaliate against any person who has made a
complaint, testified, assisted or participated in any manner in an
investigation or proceeding under the statutes governing federal
financial assistance programs.
Civil rights complaints should be filed with: Department of the
Treasury, Office of Equal Opportunity Program 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW, Room 6071 Metropolitan Square, Washington, DC 20220.
I. Technical Assistance
Treasury and its bureaus will provide technical assistance to
recipients, and will continue to be available to provide such
assistance to any recipient seeking to ensure that it operates an
effective language assistance program. In addition, during its
investigative process, Treasury is available to provide technical
assistance to enable recipients to come into voluntary compliance.
[FR Doc. 01-5412 Filed 3-6-01; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4810-25-P