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Workers’ Compensation Board Fails Workers with Limited English Proficiency

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) fails to adequately protect the rights of injured or ill workers to understand and participate in hearings to determine their benefits, finds a new report released today by  NCLEJ and the Worker Protection Coalition. The report, finding that the WCB provides incomplete and low-quality interpretation and, in many cases, no interpretation at all, is to be released while the New York State legislature contemplates further rollbacks to worker protections in the Workers’ Compensation System.

The report, Compensation Not Open to Interpretation: Language Access in New York State Workers’ Compensation Hearings, presents information obtained from observing nearly 500 WCB hearings observed over an eight-month period in 2016. Observers were volunteers from members of the Worker Protection Coalition, including NCLEJ, Make the Road New York, MFY Legal Services, and the New York Committee on Occupational Safety & Health.

A key finding of the report is that the WCB fails to provide any interpretation at all in more than 40% of hearings where the worker requires interpretation. The report further finds that even when the WCB provides interpretation, it is only for portions of the hearing, and the WCB never provides interpretation for the entirety of a hearing. When the WCB does provide interpretation, it is through poor-quality telephonic services that do not adequately interpret complex hearings for injured or ill workers, according to the findings.

The report proposes critical corrective action that the WCB must take immediately to improve its services to workers with limited English proficiency. The report also urges the New York State Legislature to, this session, codify Executive Order 26, which requires state agencies to provide interpretation to those who require it to use services provided by the agency and other steps to meet the needs of New Yorkers with limited English proficiency.

“Workers deserve quality interpretation to protect their legal rights,” said Leah Lotto, NCLEJ Staff Attorney and co-author of the report. “After suffering workplace injury or illness, workers need the system to work efficiently and fairly to provide benefits for medical bills and lost wages,” said the report’s co-author, NCLEJ Staff Attorney Katie Deabler.

The Worker Protection Coalition and NCLEJ believe this report identifies serious flaws in the system and offers a blueprint for policy changes that will improve the lives of New York’s workers.

About the Workers’ Protection Coalition
The Workers’ Protection Coalition unites unions, injured workers, workers’ centers, law firms, and community-based organizations to advocate for a Workers’ Compensation system in New York State that works for injured workers and that is governed by principles of equity and justice.

To read the full report, please see:

 

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