Legal Basis & Guidance

Individuals who are non-English speaking have rights regarding language access resources. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination in programs that receive federal funds on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Protection from discrimination on the basis of national origin includes discrimination based on language differences. Discrimination occurs when non-English speaking individuals are not able to receive the benefits of federally funded programs at the same level of English speaking participants. Here are the rights that LEP individuals have and what has been determined by the legal system to constitute discrimination:

  • The Supreme Court and other courts have found that insufficient access to services on the basis of language differences is a form of national origin discrimination
  • The Department of Justice have determined that intentional discrimination and discriminatory impact are both prohibited when concerning LEP individual’s access to services. This means that organizations that are not giving equal services to LEP and English speaking individuals is enough to be determined as discrimination, even if the agency was not intending to discriminate.

There are also legal requirements that organizations have to provide set forth by the Office of Civil Rights.

  1. LEP individuals should be made aware of interpretative services that are available to them that are free of service
  2. Interpretative services provided by an agency should not rely on friends or family members of the individual needing interpretative services.
  3. Vital Documents should be translated to a particular language when 5% or 1000 people, whichever is less, in the serving population speak that language.
  4. If less than 50 people make up 5% of the population are apart of a LEP group than an organization does not need to provide translated documents. They would need to give written notice in the client’s primary language that they can have documents orally translated to them.

Executive Order 13166 of August 11, 2000

The purpose of this executive order was to improve access to federally funded services to LEP individuals. The order set forth two goals.

  1. Each federal agency must develop and implement a procedures so that LEP individuals can meaningfully access the agency’s services.
  2. It also provides information to agencies receiving federal funding, through the Department of Justice, regarding legal requirements these agencies must follow to make sure that services typically provided in English are equally as accessible to LEP individuals.

Renewed Commitment to Executive Order 13166 February 17, 2011

Eleven years after Executive Order 13166 and a study found that there are still variations in the awareness among organizations about language access as well as variations in level of compliance with those requirements. The document below details concrete action steps that organization can take to be in compliance with language access standards.

FAQ’s regarding Executive Order 13166: