EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following letter to respond to a request for public comment from a federal agency or department. This letter is an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADA: Sign Language Interpreters for Employer-provided Training
October 29, 2007
This responds to your letter dated October 10, 2007, in which you inquired whether it is the responsibility of federal agencies to pay for their employees’ sign language interpreters when attending a training at one of your locations, and whether, if you provide the interpreters, you may add the cost to the student’s tuition.
In the situation you describe, the employer has an obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act (if the employer is a federal agency), Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (if it is a state or local government employer or a private sector employer), or Title I of the ADA and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act (if the employer is a federal contractor). As the entity offering training, your company also has an obligation, under Title III of the ADA (which applies to places of public accommodation) and perhaps Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (which applies to federally funded programs and activities), to provide auxiliary aids and services necessary for effective communication with training participants with disabilities. Auxiliary aids and services may include sign language interpreters. If an accommodation needed by an individual with a disability does not pose significant difficulty or expense, it must be provided. Private entities should consult with their tax preparer regarding tax deductions and credits available for providing reasonable accommodation.
The Commission has stated that where, as in the situation you described, two or more entities have an independent legal obligation to provide and pay for an accommodation for a training participant, either or both can be held legally responsible for failure to do so. Questions and Answers for Mediation Providers: Mediation and the ADA (prepared jointly by the EEOC, the National Council on Disability, and the U.S. Department of Justice), at questions 14-15 (http://www.eeoc.gov/mediate/ada/ada_mediators.html); Questions and Answers about Deafness and Hearing Impairments in the Workplace, at question 16, example 24 (http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/deafness.html). Therefore, they should communicate and coordinate in advance to plan who will arrange for the accommodation and how the cost will be handled. In some cases of joint obligation, one entity will offer to cover the entire cost; in other cases, a cost-sharing arrangement between the two entities may be devised. Additionally, nothing in the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act would appear to prohibit an agreement whereby the employing agency pays the cost of a sign language interpreter as part of the cost of an employee’s tuition, while your
company arranges to secure interpreter services.(1) Regardless of what arrangement is made, the failure of one entity that is jointly liable for providing an accommodation to fulfill its obligation will not excuse the other entity from providing the accommodation.
For information about your obligations under Title III of the ADA, you should contact the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice. You can reach them at 800-514-0301 (voice), 800-514-0383 (TTY), and can obtain further information about Title III from their website, www.ada.gov.I hope this information is helpful. This has been an informal discussion of the issues you raised and does not constitute an official opinion of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Further, our silence on other statements or analyses that may have been presented in your letter should not be construed as agreement with those matters.
Peggy R. Mastroianni
Associate Legal Counsel
(1) Whether you could charge an individual training participant (as opposed to the participant’s employer) an additional cost for interpreter services is determined by reference to Title III of the ADA and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, neither of which the EEOC has authority to interpret or enforce. However, Questions and Answers for Mediation Providers: Mediation and the ADA (prepared jointly by the EEOC, the National Council on Disability, and the U.S. Department of Justice), which addresses among other topics mediation providers covered under Title III and/or Section 504, states at question 15: “May providers of mediation services charge an individual with a disability for the cost of reasonable accommodations, such as sign language interpreters? No. If an accommodation needed by an individual with a disability does not pose significant difficulty or expense, the mediation provider has to provide and pay for it.”
This page was last modified on November 26, 2007.
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