Coming into the language industry and not speaking a foreign language, I did not realize the importance of interpreters. More importantly, I did not know about the seriousness of documenting interpreting services in order to comply with the law. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, national origin, or color in programs or activities that receive any type of federal funding, and requires organizations to ensure people can “meaningfully access” programs and activities.
Can you be audited?
Anyone who receives any type of federal funding, whether it is $1 or $1,000,000, is subject to a Title VI audit. Some of the penalties associated with findings of non-compliance for Title VI audits include suspension of federal funds, compliance reviews, consent decrees and agreements, ongoing federal investigations and oversight, private plaintiffs civil rights lawsuits (yes, under Title VI an individual can sue you), and private right of action as a result of discrimination.
Four-Factor Compliance Analysis
The question at hand is how do you stay compliant in order to avoid costly penalties and ensure equal access to all of your clients? In order to stay compliant you need to do several things. The most important step is to apply the Department of Justice’s Four-Factor Analysis. The Four-Factor Analysis includes:
- The proportion of limited English proficient persons eligible to be served or likely to be encountered by the grantee.
- The frequency with which limited English proficient individuals come into contact with the program.
- The nature and importance of the program activity or service provided by the program to people’s lives.
- The resources available to the grantee/recipient and costs.
This four-factor analysis allows federally funded organizations to determine what steps they should take to provide meaningful access for limited English proficient individuals.
In addition, any organization that uses interpreters needs to have data on interpreting readily available. This data includes, but is not limited to, language assistance plans, policies, and information on using interpreters, such as how you use interpreters, what numbers you call to get interpreters, and the process of getting an interpreter immediately if a limited English proficient patient arrives to your facility unannounced.
The key to complying with Title VI is to have all information and processes on interpreting services documented and readily available. Your language service providers are key players in helping you with Title VI compliance. They should be recording information on the services they provide you that will help your organization stay compliant. A strong relationship with your LSP will save you headaches down the road.