Are You Legally Required to Translate?

If you operate your business in a multi-lingual community, you’ve probably had difficulty communicating with customers and employees. In these situations, a multi-lingual staff can be quite useful. But is it mandatory? Are businesses legally required to translate for employees and customers? Or is doing so merely a kind gesture? As with most situations, it depends. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes the following language: “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 .” If your business receives federal government assistance — a grant, loan or contract — you are bound by these terms. And these terms have been interpreted to imply a legal obligation to provide translation services to employees and customers. But when does that obligation exist? Are you legally required to translate in all situations or just some? People who don’t speak English are known as Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals. Your obligation to translate depends on the number of LEP persons with whom your business interacts; how often translation is needed; the type of product or service you provide; and your resources. Chances are you’ll have to provide LEP employees with translated documents and a translator during vital conversations. You may need to post signs in languages popular amongst your LEP customers and employees. But as a small business, it’s unlikely you’ll need to add a full-time translator to your payroll. If you’d like more information on when your business is legally required to translate, contact the civil rights office associated with the federal agency responsible for your funds or contract. Many have posted their Language Access Plan online, but an employee may be able to provide a better explanation. Related Resources: When Language is Legal: Are You Mandated to Translate? (NFIB) Health Care, Human Services, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (FindLaw) National Origin Discrimination and English-Language Only Rules (FindLaw)

Are You Legally Required to Translate?

Twitter Follow

Follow us on

Contact Us

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT:  This communication or portions thereof may be considered "advertising" as defined by Section 6157(c) of the California Business and Professions Code or within the jurisdiction in which you are viewing this.  Nothing in the discussion above is intended to be a representation or guarantee about the outcome of any legal proceeding in which you may be involved.  By providing the information above in this format, Michel & Associates is not soliciting you to hire it to handle a specific legal matter you may currently have or be anticipating commencing in the future.  Notwithstanding the discussion above, you should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content on this site without seeking appropriate legal advice regarding your particular circumstances from an attorney licensed to practice law.  This communication is informational only and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Michel & Associates.  Michel & Associates's attorneys are licensed to practice in California, Texas, and the District of Columbia.