Limited-English-proficient workers entitled to interpreters during appeal
Case name: Kustura v. Department of Labor and Industries, No. 81478-3 (Wash. 06/17/10).
Ruling: The Washington Supreme Court held that limited-English-proficient workers were entitled to government-paid interpreter services because the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals appointed the interpreters.
What it means: In Washington state, limited-English-proficient workers are entitled to free interpreters at hearings if the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals appoints the interpreter.
Summary: Limited-English-proficient workers filed workers' compensation claims. The workers, who were not indigent, requested government-paid interpreter services during the claims process. The Washington Supreme Court held that non-indigent, limited-English-proficient individuals had a right to government-paid interpreter services when a government agency initiated the legal action. Workers also had a right to paid interpreter services if the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals appointed interpreters at hearings.
Washington law requires government-paid interpreters for non-English speaking individuals when the legal action is initiated by the state. The workers argued that the Department of Labor and Industries initiated the action when it sent them information about their rights. The court rejected this argument and stated that the workers initiated the claims. Therefore, the court concluded that it was unnecessary to determine whether the actions were "legal proceedings" within the statutory definition.
Since the board appointed interpreters at their appeal hearings, the board should pay for the interpreters, the court stated. The court also noted that the board could not appoint an interpreter and then restrict the scope of the interpreter's services during a hearing. However, the right was only limited to hearings and did not extend to hearing preparation, the court stated.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 16, 2010
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