Language Access and Title VI obligations

ACASA_logo 2015Language Access and Title VI obligations

All agencies and organizations receiving any federal money – even as little as one dollar – are obligated to follow Title VI and provide language access to ALL victims. Organizations
cannot discriminate against any person in the following protected classes for any reason:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (Male/Female)
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation (VAWA only)
  • Gender identity (VAWA only)

Title VI states that 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 financial assistance. NO
PERSON – this includes illegal immigrants. It does not say “No Citizen.”

Title VI prohibits:

  • Providing different services to individuals;
  • Denying the opportunity to participate as a member of a planning or advisory body;
    and
  • Selecting the location of a facility with the purpose or effect of excluding individuals.

Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act states that no person in any State shall on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under or denied employment in connection with any programs or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under this chapter. Again, if an agency or organization receives ONE DOLLAR of Federal funding, it must comply; NO PERSON includes illegal immigrants.

The Victims of Crime Act states that no person shall on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, handicap (disability), or sex be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, subjected to discrimination under or denied employment in connection with, any undertaking (program activities/all operations) funded in whole or in part with sums made available under this chapter. Again, if an agency or organization receives a single dollar in Federal funding compliance is not a choice and no person does not exclude illegal immigrants.

Violence Against Women Act (2013) states that no person in the United States shall, on basis of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity (as defined in paragraph 249 (c)(4) of title 18, United States Code), sexual orientation, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds made available under VAWA, and any other program or activity funded in whole or in part with funds appropriated for grants, cooperative agreements, and other assistance administered by the Office on Violence Against Women. Again, if an agency or organization receives ONE DOLLAR of Federal funding, it must comply; NO PERSON includes illegal immigrants. ACASA cannot state this clearly enough.

Now, clearly we do segregate men and women at some times for purposes of “group” support or shelter services, but here is the statute about that. If sex (male-female) segregation or sex-specific programming is necessary to the essential operation of a program, nothing in this paragraph shall prevent any such program or activity from consideration of an individual’s sex. In such circumstances, grantees may meet the requirements of this paragraph by providing comparable services to individuals who cannot be provided with the sex-segregated or sex-specific programming.

This means your organization must provide comparable services, which may prove difficult for support groups, but it can be achieved through transitional housing in another area of the shelter for males (or female if it is a male shelter), or providing a hotel room or by other means. Also – if an organization has a maximum limit for stay, this replacement housing must be comparable. For example: If your organization supports women in a shelter for up to 60 days, your staff must provide the same for the male – even if it is a hotel room. (Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking from receiving benefits and services under this title.)

If you are struggling to decide what to do ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the segregation necessary?
  • What is the nature of the service?
  • What are the consequences to beneficiaries of making sex-segregated or sex-specific options?
  • Can your organization back up the reason for segregation with literature on efficacy research?
  • What will the impact on transgender clients be?

Your organization’s reasons may not be trivial, but based solely on convenience, or rooted in stereotypes. “We have always done it this way,” or “we cannot afford to provide for both” cannot be used as a reason.

If your organization has questions on LGBTQ, there is a technical assistance provider to contact: FORGE – Loree Cook-Daniels at 414-559-2123 or AskFORGE@forge-forward.org. Another resource is the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs/NYC Anti-Violence Project. Contact Chai Jindasurat at 212-714-1184.

As far as disability issues, all organizations should know that if they are a SASP recipient or an ACASAS member, we can help your organization connect with translators. But, to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act and 504 Requirements, also remember this: Your organization cannot tell a client “We are not equipped to serve women with mental illness,” as that is a disability. ACASA wants your organization to be clear on this: No one from your center can turn someone away solely based on mental illness. Your organization may have a “violence” policy, but it cannot discriminate because a client discloses a mental illness or an advocate see their prescriptions, which may indicate a mental illness.

Language Access.
Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English can be limited English proficient or ‘LEP,’ and entitled to language assistance.

Your agency or organization’s obligation is to:

  • Take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to programs, services, and information free of charge; and
  • Establish an LEP implementation plan to address identified language assistance needs of LEP populations.

Interpretation: Oral Language Services

  • Ensure competency;
  • Use of bilingual staff;
  • Telephone Interpreter Lines; and are
  • NOT family, friends, or detainees.Translation: Written Language Services
  • Vital documents; and
  • Safe harbor

Also, interpreters for the deaf follow the same guidelines listed above and must be provided free of charge.

Elements of Effective LEP Plan

  • A process for identifying LEP individuals who need language assistance;
  • Information about the language assistance measures;
  • Training for staff;
  • Notice to LEP persons; and
  • Monitoring and updating the LEP plan.

ACASA has included the following link which will help your organization develop a plan if it does not already have one in place:
http://www.lep.gov/resources/2011_Language_Access_Assessment_and_Planning_Tool.pdf

This information is a lot to digest, but please take the time to think about the obligations your organization has under these Acts and Statutes and make an assessment. Share this with your employees. If your organization is not in compliance and should it be audited by a funding source, it could lose funding for all of the funding sources from the Federal government. More money was set aside this year than ever before specifically for auditing programs receiving funding, so this could very well happen.

Members of ACASA should be in compliance with all of the Acts and Statutes mentioned in this white paper. If your organization is not, ACASA can help achieve compliance through technical assistance and technical assistance resources. For more information, contact Monie Johnson at mjacasa@outlook.com.