Men and women that are Spanish speakers have made major contributions in food service, transportation, construction and custodial services. These essential workers have the same rights to a safe and healthy work environment.
When a Spanish speaker has the need of a workers’ compensation claim there can be certain challenges that a native speaker may not face. Both employers and employees should be aware of these challenges and proactively work to overcome them.
Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and workers’ compensation
A study by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice made the following observations:
- 18% of all workers’ compensation hearings required that the claimant have an interpreter
- 42% of LEP claimants did not have an interpreter provided by the board
- Board-provided telephone interpretation services were often inadequate because of poor audio quality or the interpreter not being familiar with workers’ compensation-specific vocabulary.
As one can see, the challenge of providing language assistance to LEP claimants is an ongoing challenge, and one can not 100% rely on the workers’ compensation board to provide adequate help in the form of interpreters.
English-only rules at work can cause accidents and injuries
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. The EEOC passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on national origin. Since the language a person speaks is inextricably tied to their national origin, it is often a source of discrimination to force employees to speak “English-only” at work.
If a Spanish-speaking employee is forbidden to speak with other Spanish-speaking employees, then it could lead to confusion and avoidable accidents and injuries. In emergencies, it is necessary to communicate in a manner that is clear and efficient.
Getting the right help
Having professional guidance in Virginia that is experienced, bilingual and knowledgeable about workers’ compensation claims can be the best resource for a Spanish speaker.