Erie County of New York State Enters Agreement with HHS OCR to Ensure Availability of Language Assistance Services for Individuals with LEP


Contact:  HHS Office for Civil Rights

December 22, 2016

Erie County of New York State Enters Agreement with HHS OCR to Ensure Availability of Language Assistance Services for Individuals with LEP

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the Erie County Department of Social Services (ECDSS) of Buffalo, New York, to ensure that appropriate language assistance services are provided to individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) whom ECDSS serves.

The Agreement resolves a complaint filed by Neighborhood Legal Services on behalf of five individuals alleging that ECDSS failed to provide language assistance and important documentation in their native languages. HHS OCR investigated the complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Title VI also prohibits policies that have an adverse effect on the ability of national origin minorities to meaningfully access services. OCR is responsible for enforcing Title VI in HHS-funded healthcare programs and services and conducts investigations to assess unequal impact on the basis of national origin.

As a result of OCR’s investigation, ECDSS voluntarily entered this Agreement and affirmed its assurance of compliance with all provisions under Title VI. Under this comprehensive Agreement, ECDSS agreed to take multiple actions to improve its language assistance services, as follows:

  • Assign a Title VI coordinator;
  • Conduct and complete an assessment of the linguistic needs of the affected population served by ECDSS;
  • Identify and translate all vital documents provided by ECDSS;
  • Develop and implement a language access plan with written policies and procedures on providing assistance to individuals with LEP;
  • Develop and implement mandatory training for all staff;
  • Adopt a grievance procedure;
  • Post a Notice of Nondiscrimination;
  • Post a Nondiscrimination Statement; and,
  • Post Taglines in at least 10 languages.

Although this Agreement resolves violations under Title VI, the provisions of this voluntary settlement reflect the interpretations of those standards contained in OCR’s regulation implementing the language access requirements of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.

To read the full Agreement text, click here.

For additional information on discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin, please see the following resources: 

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on December 21, 2016