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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 1, 2015

U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor and Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Reach Agreement to Improve Access for Limited English Proficient Workers

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor have reached an agreement with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to resolve civil rights complaints filed by limited English proficient (LEP) workers who alleged that they were subject to national origin discrimination in the state’s workers’ compensation program.  These workers alleged that they were denied access to interpreters and to vital information in their primary languages.  The agreement calls for significant improvements in language assistance services for LEP workers.

“This agreement symbolizes how federal and state government can work together to improve access to government services for limited English proficient communities.” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  “The Department of Justice will continue its efforts to ensure these communities have equal access to government services.”

“Navigating a system of government benefits can be daunting for anyone,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes of the Western District of Washington.  “This is particularly so for members of our community who are applying for workers compensation benefits and whose primary language is not English.  The changes to Washington’s Labor and Industries practices set forth in this settlement agreement will ensure all workers’ rights are protected regardless of their country of origin.”

“I commend L&I for its commitment to work with the Civil Rights Center and the Department of Justice to remove language barriers for limited English proficient workers.” said Director Naomi M. Barry-Pérez of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center.

The Departments of Justice and Labor worked with L&I to develop a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that memorializes L&I’s commitment to develop and implement a language access program that ensures LEP individuals are provided meaningful access to L&I programs, activities, and information.  The MOA and new L&I Language Access Policy include the following commitments:

  • All L&I staff will ensure LEP individuals receive language assistance services at no charge.
  • L&I will develop a Language Access Plan, that sets forth the management actions needed to implement the Language Access Policy and ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws, including the tasks to be undertaken, assignment of responsibility, deadlines, processes, resources, quality controls, and periodic updates.
  • L&I will translate claim and application forms, complaint and consent forms, letters and notices, and electronic materials into non-English languages.
  • L&I will add advisory members to the Language Access Steering Committee to represent the interests of LEP workers and the Washington employer community.
  • L&I will submit detailed monitoring reports that document its implementation of the MOA.

The investigation was jointly conducted by the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section (FCS) in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center (CRC).  Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 188 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, the Victims of Crime Act, and their corresponding implementing regulations all prohibit national origin discrimination and require recipients of federal financial assistance to provide LEP individuals meaningful access to programs and activities through no-cost language assistance services.

FCS has worked with a number of state courts, law enforcement agencies, correctional agencies and other government entities to ensure Title VI compliance and access to language assistance services for LEP individuals.  Please click here for further information about FCS.  For additional LEP-related resources, go to LEP.gov, the Federal Interagency Website on LEP.

CRC enforces nondiscrimination laws that apply to recipients of financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor and, in some circumstances, from other federal departments and agencies.  For more information about CRC, call 202-693-6500 (voice) or 800-877-8339 (relay) or visit CRC’s website.

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 
15-1219
Updated November 10, 2016