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Workers comp insurer agrees to do more for limited English speakers

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The Washington state Department of Labor & Industries has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Labor to provide language assistance services for injured workers who speak limited English, the Justice Department said.

The agreement announced last week was based on civil rights complaints from injured workers who alleged they were subjected to national origin discrimination in the state's workers comp system because they were denied access to interpreters and vital information in their primary languages, the Justice Department said in a statement.

The agreement will require the state monopoly workers comp insurer to develop a “language access policy” that includes language assistance services provided at no charge to injured workers and translating various workers comp claim and application forms into languages other than English.

Labor & Industries also will be required to submit status reports on its language policy to the federal agencies.

“Navigating a system of government benefits can be daunting for anyone,” Annette L. Hayes, U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington, said in the statement.

“This is particularly so for members of our community who are applying for workers compensation benefits and whose primary language is not English. The changes to Washington's Labor & Industries practices set forth in this settlement agreement will ensure all workers' rights are protected regardless of their country of origin.”