EEOC Seal

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Language Access Plan

I. Introduction

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC" or "the Commission") to enforce the federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination and to eradicate unlawful employment discrimination. To accomplish this mission, EEOC is committed not only to combating employment discrimination through strategic law enforcement, but also to preventing employment discrimination through outreach and education, to ensure both that members of the public understand how to exercise their rights, and that employers and other covered entities understand how to prevent and, if necessary, address and resolve discrimination.[1] The Commission long has recognized that as part of these outreach and education efforts, we must reach out to all segments of the nation's workforce, including the numerous workers who read and speak languages other than English and who may not be conversant in the English language. The Commission is also cognizant of the dramatic changes that have taken place over the past 48 years, as both the nation and the workforce have grown increasingly diverse. Since Title VII was enacted, immigrants, as well as women, persons of color, and older workers, have increasingly entered the workforce, advanced into management positions, and started businesses of their own.[2] These demographic changes pose challenges and opportunities for the Commission, as we seek to address new forms of discrimination that did not exist when EEOC was established, and to reach individuals and groups that speak languages that were rarely heard in the United States in 1964, when Congress passed Title VII.

EEOC, both at headquarters and in its District, Field, Area, and Local Offices (referred to herein as "HQ" and "field offices"), has engaged in various activities designed to extend our enforcement, education, and technical assistance to limited English proficient (LEP) com­munities throughout the nation. As critical components of the Commission's nondiscrimination efforts, these activities include conducting outreach and education to LEP communities, including LEP applicants, employees, and employers; providing technical assistance to employers, including both employers with LEP employees and employers who are LEP; investigating, mediating, and litigating charges alleging discrimination against LEP Charging Parties; adapting reporting systems to capture information about LEP activities; approving new bilingual position descriptions; training field staff on provision of language assistance services; and developing and maintaining relationships with LEP stakeholders. This plan describes the Commission's efforts, both current and anticipated, in furtherance of its responsibility to ensure that LEP applicants, employees, employers, and stakeholders continue to enjoy meaningful access to EEOC programs and services.

II. General Language Access Policy Directive

a. Policy Statement

  1. It is the policy of the EEOC that all EEOC staff must take reasonable steps to provide LEP persons with meaningful access to all EEOC programs and activities.
  2. It is the responsibility of EEOC staff and not the LEP person to ensure that communications between EEOC and the LEP person are not impaired as a result of the limited English proficiency of the individual. Commission staff will provide the LEP person with both interpretation and translated materials, where available.
  3. EEOC staff will inform the public of the availability of language accessible programs and activities.

b. Purpose and Authority Statement

This Plan describes the Commission's policies and practices to provide language access services to limited English proficient individuals. The Plan also outlines anticipated future actions to assist LEP individuals. Pursuant to this Plan, the Commission seeks to continue to eliminate or reduce - to the maximum extent practicable - limited English proficiency as a barrier to accessing Commission programs or activities.

This Plan establishes guidelines in accordance with Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, 65 Fed. Reg. 50,121 (Aug. 16, 2000), which directs all federal agencies to "examine the services [they] provide[] and develop and implement a system by which [limited English proficient] persons can meaningfully access those services consistent with, and without unduly burdening, the fundamental mission of the agency." This Plan complies with Attorney General Eric H. Holder's February 17, 2011 memorandum to federal agencies regarding the federal government's renewed commitment to language access obligations under Executive Order 13166.[3] This Plan supersedes prior EEOC Language Access Plans.[4] We anticipate that this Plan and related documents will be reevaluated in two years.

c. Definitions

  1. Bilingual Staff - A staff person who has demonstrated proficiency in English and reading, writing, speaking, or understanding at least one other language. For the purposes of this plan, a bilingual staff member is a staff member hired under a bilingual position description.
  2. Effective Communication - Communication sufficient to provide the LEP individual with substantially the same level of services received by individuals who are not LEP. For example, staff must take reasonable steps to ensure communication with an LEP individual is as effective as communication with English proficient individuals when providing similar programs and services.
  3. Field Offices - EEOC offices located across the country. These offices conduct administrative, enforcement, litigation, and outreach activities, and are often the first point of contact for LEP individuals who seek information about their rights or responsibilities or would like to file a charge of discrimination.
  4. Headquarters (HQ) - EEOC's administrative offices, located in Washington, D.C.
  5. Interpretation - The act of listening to a communication in one language (source language) and orally converting it to another language (target language) while retaining the same meaning.
  6. Language Assistance Officer (LAO) -EEOC staff who are responsible for ensuring that their respective offices provide meaningful access to agency programs and services to LEP individuals within their jurisdiction.
  7. Language Assistance Services - Oral and written language services needed to assist LEP individuals to communicate effectively with staff, and to provide LEP individuals with meaningful access to, and an equal opportunity to participate fully in, the services, activities, or other programs administered by the Commission.
  8. Limited English Proficient (LEP) Individuals - Individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English. LEP individuals may be competent in English for certain types of communication (e.g., speaking or understanding), but still be LEP for other purposes (e.g., reading or writing).
  9. Meaningful Access - Language assistance that results in accurate, timely, and effective communication at no cost to the LEP individual. For LEP individuals, meaningful access denotes access that is not significantly restricted, delayed, or inferior compared to programs or services provided to English proficient individuals.
  10. Primary Language - An individual's primary language is the language in which the individual most effectively communicates.
  11. Program or Activity - all of the operations of the Commission.
  12. Translation - The replacement of written text from one language (source language) into an equivalent written text in another language (target language).
  13. Vital Document - Paper or electronic written material that contains information that is critical for accessing the Commission's programs or activities, or is required by law.

III. Function of the Commission

As noted above, pursuant to Executive Order 13166 and the Attorney General's February 17, 2011 memorandum, EEOC is responsible for preparing and implementing a plan to improve LEP persons' access to Commission programs and activities. To understand the EEOC programs and activities to which the Executive Order applies, we provide the following brief overview of the Commission.

A. Enforcement

EEOC is a law enforcement agency. The Commission enforces seven federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination against applicants for employment, current employees, and former employees: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin); the Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended (prohibiting employers from paying different wages to men and women performing equal work in the same establishment); the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (prohibiting discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended (prohibiting discrimination against persons age 40 or older); Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities); and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information). These protections apply regardless of a person's immigration or citizenship status.

Our programs are administered through a central headquarters office in Washington, D.C., and district, field, area, and local offices located throughout the country. At present, EEOC has 15 district offices, 9 field offices, and 29 smaller area and local offices. Our field offices are responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination laws in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix), American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Wake Island.

The EEOC has two procedures, one for the private sector (including corporations, private employers, unions, and state and local governments) and one for the federal sector (federal government agencies). In Fiscal Year 2011, EEOC received 99,947 private sector charges of discrimination, 8,123 federal sector administrative hearing requests, and 5,176 federal sector appeals.

a. Private Sector Charge Process

Federal employment discrimination laws cover corporations, private employers, unions, state and local governments, and educational institutions that employ a certain minimum number of individuals (generally 15). The laws also cover private and public employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor management committees controlling apprenticeship and training. U.S.-based companies that employ U.S. citizens outside the United States or its territories and foreign corporate employers that operate in the United States or its territories are also covered by equal employment opportunity laws, with certain exceptions.

Individuals who believe that they have been subjected to discrimination at work because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information, or because they filed a discrimination complaint, participated in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposed discrimination, may file a discrimination complaint, called a "charge of discrimination," at 53 field offices located across the United States. In general, individuals must file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the alleged discrimination took place. The 180 calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. The rules are slightly different for age discrimination charges. For age discrimination, the filing deadline is only extended to 300 days if there is a state law prohibiting age discrimination in employment and a state agency or authority enforcing that law.

Many individuals initially contact the Commission by phone, while others contact us by mail. Alternatively, individuals may visit a field office to speak with an Intake Officer. Often, a person's initial contact will be to obtain information about his or her employment rights, to learn about the time frames for filing charges, or to learn about the charge filing process generally.

If an individual wishes to file a charge, EEOC staff will provide the potential Charging Party with an intake questionnaire which requests information about the nature of the alleged violation, the identity of the employer, and other pertinent facts. The intake questionnaire is available in both English and Spanish. After the intake questionnaire is completed and reviewed, the potential Charging Party will meet or speak with a field office staff member to discuss, in depth, the allegation(s) and the information presented by the individual in support of the allegation(s). Our intake staff counsel potential Charging Parties on the strength of the information presented and the likelihood of success. Anyone who wishes to file a charge may do so.

If an individual files a charge, EEOC notifies the Respondent within ten days of the filing date. Further processing of the charge may involve an invitation to mediate, additional investigation, or dismissal if the charge is deemed to be non-meritorious. The parties may agree to settle a charge at any time. If EEOC determines that further investigation will not result in finding that a violation occurred, we will dismiss the charge and issue a notice of right to sue to the Charging Party. This notice gives the Charging Party permission to file his or her own lawsuit against the employer. If EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred, we will attempt to resolve the issues through conciliation (informal settlement talks to resolve the dispute). If conciliation is unsuccessful, EEOC may litigate the matter or issue a notice of right to sue to the Charging Party.

b. Federal Sector Complaint Process

Federal employment discrimination laws also apply to federal government employees and applicants. While there are several avenues through which a discrimination claim may be pursued in the federal sector, employees or applicants who believe that they have been discriminated against by a federal agency must generally contact an EEO Counselor at the agency within 45 days of the discriminatory action. The Complainant's agency is responsible for providing foreign language assistance, such as an interpreter, if needed, at the complaint stage of the process. The individual may choose to participate in counseling or in alternative dispute resolution (ADR), if available. Ordinarily, counseling must be completed within 30 days and ADR within 90 days. At the end of counsel­ing, or if ADR is unsuccessful, the individual may then file a complaint with the agency. The agency must investigate the complaint unless it is dismissed, in which case the Complainant may appeal the dismissal to EEOC. The charged agency has the responsibility to provide foreign language assistance, such as an interpreter, if needed, during the investigation.

Once the agency finishes its investigation or after 180 days has passed, the Complainant may request a hearing before an EEOC Administrative Judge or an immediate decision from the agency. If a federal employee or applicant needs foreign language assistance, such as an interpreter, while the complaint is in the hearing stage at EEOC, it is the responsibility of the responding agency to provide the needed language assistance. In cases in which a hearing is requested, the Administrative Judge issues a decision and sends it to the parties. In cases in which discrimination is found, the Administrative Judge orders appropriate relief. If the agency does not issue a final order within 40 days of receiving the Administrative Judge's decision, the decision becomes the final action of the agency and, therefore, binding. If the agency timely issues an order notifying the Complainant that it will not fully implement the Administrative Judge's decision, the agency also must file an appeal with EEOC's Office of Federal Operations (OFO) at the same time. A Complainant may also file an appeal with OFO from any final agency action in which there is a finding of no discrimination.

B. Outreach

In addition to enforcing federal employment discrimination laws, EEOC also conducts outreach to the employer and employee communities to provide them with the tools and information they need to comply with or understand their rights under the law. EEOC has a statutory mandate to educate the public and to provide outreach and technical assistance to facilitate compliance with the laws the Commission enforces. While EEOC will not hesitate to investigate, conciliate, and litigate charges when necessary, the Commission seeks to prevent discrimination from occurring by educating employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities.[5] To the extent that outreach to LEP communities results in LEP individuals expressing interest in filing charges of discrimination, the Commission provides language assistance services during intake and any subsequent enforcement activities, as needed, as described below in Section IV.b. The Commission also provides language assistance services to LEP employers, as needed, as described in Section IV.

EEOC outreach includes education and technical assistance through HQ and field office-sponsored events that serve various stakeholder groups, including those with LEP members, and fee-based training programs conducted by the Commission's Revolving Fund program. Education efforts also include promoting EEOC programs, activities, and accomplishments through the media, including social media. In addition, the Commission produces written materials that describe, in plain language, the laws that we enforce and the process for seeking assistance. These materials, as well as many others, are available on the Commission's web site, www.eeoc.gov. As noted in Section IV.b.ii.2 below, many outreach materials are available in foreign languages.

IV. Language Access Plan

a. Determining Language Needs

To fulfill EEOC's obligations under Executive Order 13166, Commission staff must understand the language needs of the populations within EEOC's jurisdiction. Accordingly, in Fiscal Year 2013, the Office of Field Programs (OFP) will request that the District Offices review and revise their language assistance plans. The development process for the new plans will include reviewing charge filing data and Census data (the latter in consultation with EEOC's Office of Research, Information, and Planning (ORIP), as needed) and soliciting feedback from stakeholder groups to determine the language needs of individuals within their respective jurisdictions.

b. Providing Language Access

To date, EEOC's Language Access Plan has been overseen by OFP and implemented by Language Assistance Officers (LAOs) in field offices throughout the country, as well as at Headquarters. The LAOs reflect a cross-section of the agency, and include Outreach Coordinators, Enforcement Managers, Alternative Dispute Resolution Coordinators, Investigative Support Assistants, Investigators, Supervisors, Area Directors, District Resource Managers, Program Analysts, and Attorneys. As a result, the LAOs are well-equipped to not only coordinate language assistance, but also to provide technical assistance in navigating EEOC processes and procedures and understanding the laws enforced by the Commission.

As described in Section VIII below, pursuant to the Attorney General's February 17, 2011 memo, the Commission will establish a Language Access Working Group (LAWG) to implement Executive Order 13166 and ensure that limited English proficient individuals continue to have meaningful access to EEOC programs and services. We anticipate that the LAOs will serve an integral role in the LAWG.

In addition, in Fiscal Year 2013, OFP will ask District Directors to appoint an LAO in each field office and to select one LAO in each District to serve as the District LAO Coordinator.

i. Interpretation

1. Bilingual Staff

Nearly all of the LEP persons who contact EEOC seek to learn about their employment rights or to file a charge of discrimination. In some instances, LEP individuals may visit a field office for this purpose. In these instances, to ensure the accuracy, quality, neutrality, and consistency of the information provided, the Commission's preferred method of communication with LEP individuals is by using a bilingual staff member. In addition to assisting LEP individuals who visit or contact a field office, bilingual staff also conduct outreach to community groups, advocacy organizations, and members of the business community who assist LEP applicants, employees, and employers, to notify them of their respective rights and responsibilities and relevant EEOC programs and services, as indicated below in Section VI.

Field offices recruit, interview, and hire bilingual employees based on the applicant's ability to speak, interpret, and translate fluently, and to perform the duties and functions required by the position. As of July 2012, the Commission had 160 employees (primarily Investigators) in bilingual positions. The Commission's bilingual employees are fluent in Spanish, Korean, Polish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Thai. See Appendix B for a list of bilingual Commission staff.

If staff are unable to immediately determine what language the LEP potential Charging Party (PCP) speaks, staff should direct the PCP to the "I Speak" poster located in the reception area so the PCP can identify his or her preferred language. If the PCP's language is on the chart, staff should determine whether local staff hired under a bilingual position description (PD) for the needed language are available to either assist the PCP immediately or, assuming the filing deadline is not imminent, schedule the PCP for an intake interview in the near future. Staff should also provide the PCP with translated material regarding his or her employment rights and the EEOC charge process, if available.

If the PCP's language is not included on the chart or no local staff on the appropriate bilingual PD are available, reception staff should follow the office's procedures for securing telephonic interpretive services, as indicated in Section IV.b.i.2 below. Staff should contact the Language Assistance Officer (LAO) to assist in the coordination of language services, as needed.

Field offices are encouraged to continue the practice of rotating staff assignments, where possible, to ensure that a bilingual employee is available in vital program areas, with the exception of mediation. Due to the confidentiality of the mediation process and the firewall between the mediation and investigative processes, if a bilingual mediation employee is not available, field offices should secure paid interpretation services for the mediation.

2. Telephonic Interpretation

Telephone calls are the most common method by which members of the public, including LEP individuals, contact the Commission. EEOC's main number, 1-800-669-4000, receives approximately 25,000 to 30,000 calls per month, and more than 300,000 calls per year. In Fiscal Year 2012, EEOC received approximately 10,500 calls from callers who needed assistance in a language other than English. Intake Information Representatives (IIRs), specially trained EEOC staff who handle these intake calls, are instructed to provide interpretive services to LEP individuals directly, if hired under a bilingual PD, or through Translations International, which provides telephonic interpretation in 150 languages by professional certified linguists.

IIRs hired under a bilingual PD are fluent in written and spoken English and the language referenced in the PD (usually Spanish). As with applicants for any bilingual PD, bilingual field office staff evaluate the language skills of applicants for bilingual IIR positions.

When HQ funds are available for a nation-wide contract, OFP instructs field offices to use the language assistance contract with Translations International. When HQ funds are not available, field offices may use their local funds to obtain language assistance from Translations International or other translation organizations.

3. Federal Agency Language Assistance

If bilingual Commission staff are not available to assist LEP individuals, field offices may determine whether staff from local federal agencies are able to provide the needed language assistance. In general, language assistance that the Commission receives from other agencies and provides to other agencies results from participation in local Federal Executive Boards (FEBs). FEBs are interagency consortiums in which local federal leaders identify strategies and resources to address local priorities and needs. In Fiscal Year 2013, OFP will request that District Offices that obtain language assistance through FEBs determine, in consultation with local FEB member agencies, how to assess the language capability of federal employees who provide language assistance services through the FEB.

4. Community-Based Organizations

If bilingual Commission staff are not available to assist LEP individuals, as an alternative to seeking language assistance through the FEB, field offices may contact community-based organizations to obtain volunteer interpretive services for LEP individuals, in accordance with the procedures established in EEOC Order 680.005. Field offices should obtain the consent of the LEP individual before contacting the community-based organization. See Appendix C for a list of community-based organizations, categorized by EEOC District. OFP, in consultation with the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), will draft and circulate to the field a standard agreement that individuals or organizations that voluntarily provide language assistance in these instances must sign before EEOC may accept the language assistance. The agreement will describe the confidentiality and neutrality requirements inherent in the EEOC proceeding at issue.

In addition to seeking language assistance from community-based organizations for enforcement efforts, field offices may also contact these organizations to request volunteer interpretive services for outreach or education events for LEP audiences, in accordance with the procedures established in EEOC Order 680.005.

5. Exigent Circumstances

In some instances, LEP PCPs may request that a friend or family member serve as an interpreter during an intake interview. As indicated above, EEOC's preferred method of communication with an LEP who is seeking to file a charge is through a bilingual staff member. However, in exigent circumstances in which the deadline to file is imminent, a bilingual staff member is unavailable to assist, and the field office is unable to obtain qualified interpretive services on short notice, field offices may allow the LEP PCP's relative or friend to serve as an interpreter during the intake interview. However, once the charge is filed, the field office should obtain a qualified interpreter, as necessary, for subsequent enforcement activity, such as interviewing witnesses or Respondents or conducting mediation. Note that use of a friend or family member to serve as an interpreter should be used only in exigent circumstances and is not the preferred method to provide interpretation services to LEP individuals.

ii. Translation of Vital Documents

To enhance communication with limited English proficient individuals, EEOC has translated a number of documents into languages other than English. EEOC selected languages for translation of Commission documents based on the language needs of our constituents as identified by our field office and HQ staff through ongoing dialogue with stakeholders in field office communities. The documents selected for translation are, for the most part, "vital documents" in that they provide critical information about the statutes EEOC enforces, charge filing requirements, and charge processing information to persons in need of EEOC's services.[6] EEOC ensures quality control of translations through qualification standards and safeguards in the procurement of translation services.

Classification of a document as "vital" depends on the importance of the program, information, encounter, or service involved, and the consequence to the LEP person if the information in question is not provided accurately or in a timely manner. In the first quarter of FY 2013, as part of an overall review of the EEOC publication and distribution process, EEOC's Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs (OCLA), in consultation with OFP and OLC, will determine which HQ documents are considered "vital." District Directors will determine which field-developed documents are "vital." These offices or individuals will also consider recommendations regarding which documents to translate and the languages for translation from employees familiar with the charge, case, matter, or outreach project.

Examples of EEOC documents that may be "vital" include: charge forms, requests for position statements, requests for information, dismissal letters, determination letters, notices of rights to sue, other time-sensitive notices (such as discovery requests that require the individual's cooperation in answering), consent orders or decrees, settlement agreements, notices of community meetings or charge- or case-related community outreach, forms or other written material related to employment rights and responsibilities, and notices regarding the availability of language assistance services for LEP individuals.

In general, documents that could be classified as "vital" fall into two categories: (1) specific communication regarding a charge, case, or matter between an individual (usually a potential Charging Party, a Charging Party, or a Respondent) and a field office; and (2) documents primarily intended for the general public or a broad audience.

1. Documents Regarding a Charge, Case, or Matter Between an Individual and a Field Office

The purpose of translating charge or case-related vital documents is to ensure that LEP individuals enjoy meaningful access to Commission enforcement and litigation efforts. As indicated in Section IV.b.i.1 above, most LEP individuals who contact EEOC wish to learn more about their employment rights or to file a charge of discrimination. As a result, field offices have translated enforcement-related documents, such as charge intake questionnaires, as well as locally developed brochures addressing employment rights, into a variety of languages, including Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, French, Punjabi, and Farsi.

In addition, EEOC translates written complaints and charge forms received in foreign languages to determine whether or not the matter falls within the Commission's jurisdiction and to determine how to proceed. Enforcement and/or legal staff, in consultation with the District Director as needed, should determine which charge or case-related documents are "vital" and the appropriate language(s) for translation. Factors that may influence whether a charge or case-related written document should be translated may include the language proficiency of the Charging Parties and/or class members; involvement of LEP Charging Parties, witnesses, or Respondents; or the nature of the case.

In cases involving LEP Charging Parties, it is not uncommon for EEOC settlement agreements to require that Respondents: post notices in languages other than English informing employees of their rights, distribute anti-discrimination policies in languages other than English to staff, and provide training in languages other than English to limited English proficient personnel. Field office staff should continue to incorporate these provisions into settlement agreements as needed, based on, among other things, the factors identified in the previous paragraph.

In some cases, field office staff, in consultation with OCLA, as needed, may determine that it is necessary to translate press releases, particularly if the case involves a large number of LEP individuals or if translation of the press release may provide helpful information to other LEP individuals who may be affected by the alleged discrimination at issue. To further facilitate the timely translation of press releases - as well as increase EEOC interaction with Spanish-language media - OCLA is currently recruiting for a Public Affairs (Spanish) position.

In addition to charge forms, EEOC occasionally receives correspondence written in a language other than English. Field offices should continue to use bilingual staff, if available, to call the writer if a phone number is included in the letter, or to respond in writing in the individual's language. If bilingual staff are not available, field offices should seek translation assistance through the FEB, if available, or through a local community-based organization. Field offices may accept voluntary language assistance provided by outside individuals or entities pursuant to the requirements described in Section IV.b.i.4 above.

2. Documents Intended for the General Public or a Broad Audience

EEOC has long recognized that educating applicants, employees, and employers, including LEP individuals, about their workplace rights and responsibilities may help prevent discrimination from arising. Accordingly, EEOC has translated fact sheets on employment discrimination, charge filing, and mediation into Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. In addition, EEOC has translated guidance on the employment rights of immigrants under federal anti-discrimination laws into Arabic, Bosnian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. The Commission has also translated guidance on employment discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or country of origin into Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu.

Recognizing that employers, as well as applicants and employees, may have limited English fluency, EEOC has translated a question and answer document for small employers on employer liability for harassment by supervisors, a small business fact sheet, and a fact sheet on small employers and reasonable accommodation into Arabic, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. To assist employers in meeting their responsibility to post notices describing the federal anti-discrimination laws, EEOC has translated the "Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law" poster into Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish. Translated documents are available to the public on our web site and through our Publications Distribution Center. See Appendix D for a list of translated documents.

The LAWG will monitor the translation of outreach and education-related documents to ensure that appropriate material is translated when a significant number or proportion of the population eligible to be served or likely to be directly affected by a particular Commission program or activity needs service or information in a language other than English to be effectively informed of or to participate in the program or activity. In particular, in Fiscal Year 2013, Commission staff will review and propose updates to EEOC's public web site, including web pages that provide information in languages other than English, to ensure that relevant pages include vital information about Commission activities, including information about the Commission's jurisdiction and mission, information about how to file a charge, information about how to contact the Commission, and information about the availability of free language assistance services. As noted earlier, OCLA will be conducting a review of the publication distribution process that will include a review of translated documents and the systems designed to deliver publications to the public.

EEOC's Outreach Coordinators, in consultation with the LAWG, will consult with relevant stakeholders, including community groups, business groups, and non-profit organizations, to determine which outreach materials should be translated and to identify the target languages for translation.

iii. Notification of the Availability of Free Language Services

In Fiscal Year 2012, to help prospective Charging Parties with limited English proficiency identify their language needs, the Commission created and disseminated "I Speak" posters to field offices. These posters, which feature the phrase "I speak [language]" in 62 languages, are displayed in field office intake reception areas, clearly visible to the public. We anticipate that the posters will enable field office staff to quickly ascertain language needs and provide bilingual assistance, forms, or informational material to LEP individuals.

EEOC's Outreach Coordinators maintain close ties to community organizations that assist immigrant groups and persons with limited English proficiency. They have and will continue to notify these groups about the availability of free language assistance services.

When vital documents that have been translated into other languages are reprinted or updated in HQ, EEOC will include a statement in each document about the availability of free language assistance services. In addition, OFP will advise field offices to add this statement when they reprint locally translated forms or vital documents.

In Fiscal Year 2013, HQ staff will update the EEOC web site to notify the public that language assistance is available at no charge, as needed. In addition, EEOC's Language Access plan will be disseminated to relevant stakeholders, as well as to the general public, and posted on our web site and on www.lep.gov.

V. Staff Guidance

Over the years, EEOC has issued guidance, memoranda, and instructions to staff regarding the EEOC's obligation to provide language assistance in enforcement and outreach activities and administrative hearings. The LAWG will review these documents to ensure the material is legally sufficient and consistent with Commission policy and practice and to determine whether revisions are required to further educate staff about the Commission's responsibilities under E.O. 13166. Upon revision, the LAWG will post the updated documents on our internal web site. In addition, the Chair will e-mail the revised EEOC Language Access Plan to EEOC employees. Furthermore, as indicated in Section VIII below, EEOC will train staff on the Commission's obligations under E.O. 13166 and the revised EEOC Language Access Plan.

VI. Community Engagement and Outreach

The Commission has long recognized the importance of conducting outreach to and developing and maintaining relationships with LEP communities on both the national and local levels.

In recent years, we have intensified our efforts to locate and educate underserved populations that may not be aware of EEOC's services or may hesitate to contact us because of language or cultural barriers. We will continue to conduct outreach to underserved communities and to increase the availability and accessibility of EEOC publications, including through translation of informational materials.

We will continue to develop cooperative relationships with federal, state, and local agencies, consulates, community-based organizations, and other interested stakeholders to coordinate outreach, enforcement, and litigation efforts on behalf of limited English proficient individuals. We will also continue to work with federal agencies to share and utilize tools, best practices, and technical assistance to ensure that EEOC provides high quality, cost-effective language access services.

In addition, we will work internally to enhance our enforcement and litigation efforts on behalf of individuals and groups of individuals, including LEP persons. For example, in 2011, EEOC created an Immigrant Worker Team to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for EEOC to address discrimination issues affecting workers of foreign national origin, including issues related to human trafficking, migrant workers, and immigrant workers, which may particularly affect LEP communities.

On a local level, field offices will continue to participate in roundtable discussions, distribute literature at ethnic festivals and job fairs, and use community-based organizations' office space for EEOC intake activities. Field office staff will also continue to appear on bilingual radio and television shows and continue to publish articles in bilingual newspapers and other publications to provide information about the Commission, federal employment discrimination laws, and EEOC programs and services.

The EEOC web site is designed to be fully accessible to persons using any web browser and any adaptive equipment. The web site contains information for employers on their legal responsibilities and information for constituents seeking assistance with private sector and public sector employment discrimination issues. As indicated above, translated documents are available on EEOC's web site. In addition, as indicated above, this Language Access Plan will be posted on EEOC's web site and www.lep.gov and disseminated to relevant stakeholders.

VII. Monitoring the Plan

As indicated below, the LAWG Chair, in consultation with OFP and the LAWG, will be responsible for the oversight, training, performance, coordination, and implementation of all aspects of the Commission's language assistance services to LEP individuals, including, but not limited to, overseeing the agency's Language Access Plan. Any concerns regarding the implementation of the EEOC Language Access Plan should be directed to the Office Director (if pertaining to field office implementation) or to the LAWG Chair (if pertaining to HQ implementation).

On a local level, field office leadership and HQ staff monitor EEOC outreach and enforcement activities designed to reach underserved communities, including communities likely to include LEP persons. Field offices provide quarterly reports to OFP which describe their progress in meeting their outreach and enforcement objectives.

Comments and concerns received in HQ regarding the provision of language assistance services are reviewed by OFP staff and referred to the appropriate field office. Field Office Directors are responsible for assessing complaints; resolving them, if possible; and responding to the complaining party. If the complaint cannot be resolved satisfactorily by the office that initially received the complaint, Field Office Directors should forward the complaints to OFP for resolution.

In Fiscal Year 2013, OFP will ask District Directors to ensure that complaints regarding the provision of language services are communicated to the District LAO Coordinator, and that both complaints and resulting resolutions are reported to the LAWG, to enable the LAWG to determine whether agency-wide changes to policies or practices are necessary, depending on the types and/or frequency of the complaints.

VIII. Anticipated Language Access Activities

As described in greater detail below, the Commission will continue training and outreach campaigns, review and revise agency programs and services as needed, analyze data collection, and enhance coordination to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency continue to have meaningful access to agency programs and services.

The Commission will train EEOC staff on EEOC's responsibilities under Executive Order 13166. The training includes scenarios to explain how staff can identify the language needs of LEP individuals, access and provide language assistance services, work with interpreters, and request document translation. Three field offices received training in Fiscal Year 2012; a fourth office will receive training in early Fiscal Year 2013. After OFP revises the training based on feedback received during the pilot sessions, the remaining field offices will receive training in Fiscal Year 2013.

The Commission will conduct outreach to notify LEP individuals, community-based organizations that assist LEP persons, other relevant stakeholders, and the public of the Commission's revised Language Access plan, policies, and procedures. The campaign will include bilingual outreach, as resources permit. The LAWG will work in concert with OCLA to develop strategic communications plans to maximize publicity about language access enhancements to EEOC information and systems.

Pursuant to the Attorney General's February 17, 2011 memo, the Commission will establish a Language Access Working Group ("LAWG") to implement Executive Order 13166 and ensure that limited English proficient individuals continue to have meaningful access to EEOC programs and services. We anticipate that the LAO Coordinators, along with representatives from the Commission's Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs; Office of Federal Operations; Office of Field Programs; Office of General Counsel; Office of Human Resources; Office of Information Technology; Office of Legal Counsel; Office of Research, Information, and Planning; and a representative from the Commission's Asian American and Pacific Islander Task Force and Immigrant Worker Team, will serve on the Commission's LAWG. In addition to the responsibilities outlined elsewhere in this plan, the LAWG will identify barriers to language access and formulate strategies and responses to overcome barriers to meaningful language access.

The LAWG will be chaired by a designee of the Chair of the EEOC. The LAWG Chair, in consultation with OFP and the LAWG, will be responsible for the oversight, training, performance, coordination, and implementation of all aspects of the Commission's language assistance services to LEP individuals. The LAWG Chair will periodically brief the Chair or his or her designee on the Commission's activities pursuant to this plan. Awo Sarpong Ansu, Special Assistant to EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien, currently serves as Chair of the LAWG.

The LAWG will review agency programs and activities for language accessibility and implement changes as necessary to ensure that individuals with limited English fluency, including any EEOC staff who have limited English proficiency, have meaningful access. For example, the Commission will update EEOC's Office of Equal Opportunity Handbook as necessary to state that individuals who are not proficient in English are entitled to an interpreter or translator at no cost and to describe the process for requesting such services.

Within one year of submission of this Plan, the LAWG will analyze the Commission's current data collection efforts related to language access and assess how the information may be used to further the Commission's efforts to ensure meaningful access to agency programs and services to LEP individuals.

In Fiscal Year 2013, Commission staff, in coordination with the LAWG, will review and propose updates to EEOC's public web site as needed to ensure that the web site includes vital information about Commission activities, including information about the Commission's jurisdiction and mission, information about how to file a charge, information about how to contact the Commission, and the availability of free language assistance services.

To ensure the continued language capability of Commission staff, the LAWG will assess the training needs of bilingual staff and make recommendations to OFP's Outreach and Training Coordinator regarding how any needs might be met.

OFP will request that District Offices update District Language Access Plans in Fiscal Year 2013 in accordance with the Attorney General's memo and the revised EEOC Language Access Plan. To assist the field and ensure a cohesive, strategic approach to providing meaningful language access nation-wide, OFP, OGC, OLC, and ORIP will provide the District Offices with resources for revising their plans and Department of Justice guidance on language access assessment and planning. In addition, ORIP will assist the District Offices in accessing and interpreting Census data for their revised plans.

In addition to Census data, District Offices will review charge filing data and solicit feedback from stakeholder groups to determine if members of various ethnic groups have been reached and are using EEOC enforcement services. Based on the comparison of demographic data, charge filing data, and stakeholder feedback, if District Offices determine that certain groups may be under-served, perhaps due to cultural or language barriers, the offices will develop a plan to reach those communities and initiate contact with community-based organizations to provide outreach and other information about Commission programs and services.

IX. Conclusion

The Commission is ever mindful of its responsibility to promote justice and equality of opportunity for all workers. Indeed, this mandate carries particular weight in relation to individuals with limited English proficiency, who may be particularly vulnerable to discrimination and unaware of, or reluctant to take advantage of, available legal protections. The Commission also has a responsibility to assist employers, including LEP employers, who may not understand their responsibilities under federal employment discrimination laws. The Commission is committed to continuing to ensure that limited English proficient individuals have meaningful access to EEOC programs and services. The Commission will continue to provide outreach and education, as well as technical assistance, to LEP applicants, employees, and employers. In addition, the Commission will continue to use its enforcement authority to ensure that LEP individuals enjoy the legal rights and freedoms to which they are entitled.



[1] See EEOC, Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2012 - 2016 3, available at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/upload/strategic_plan_12to16.pdf (last visited Oct. 9, 2012).

[2] See, e.g., Press Release, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics - 2011 (May 24, 2012), available at www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/forbrn.pdf (reporting that in 2011, 71.2 % of foreign-born Blacks, 65.6 % of foreign-born Asians, 60.2 % of foreign-born Whites, and 69.8 % of foreign-born Hispanics participated in the U.S. labor force); Robert W. Fairlie, Estimating the Contribution of Immigrant Business Owners to the U.S. Economy (Nov. 2008), available at http://archive.sba.gov/advo/research/rs334tot.pdf (noting that immigrants represent 12.5 % of U.S. business owners and generate $67 billion in U.S. business income, based on 2000 U.S. Census data).

[3] Attorney General Holder's memo requested that agencies draft guidance for recipients of federal financial assistance. The Commission does not provide federal financial assistance.

[4] On December 22, 2000, EEOC issued its first language access plan. In addition, EEOC District Offices developed their own language access plans. The District plans were updated in 2003 and 2006.

[5] See, e.g., Strategic Plan, supra note 1, at 1 (noting that in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress provided the Commission with the authority "to prevent any person from engaging in any unlawful employment practice").

[6] Fed. Coordination and Compliance Section, Dep't of Justice, Common Language Access Questions, Technical Assistance, and Guidance for Federally Conducted and Federally Assisted Programs 12 (2011), available at http://www.lep.gov/resources/081511_Language_Access_CAQ_TA_Guidance.pdf (describing a document as vital if it "contains information that is critical for accessing the agency's program[s] or activities, or is required by law").