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The Need for Interpreters at NY Workers’ Comp Board Hearings: A Look at the Issue

April 14, 2017 Workers' Compensation

Whenever an employee is hurt on-the-job, that employee has certain legal rights. In most cases, injured workers are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits to cover their losses caused by their work injury. If there is a dispute over access to benefits, workers should be entitled to take their claim before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.

It is important for anyone who goes before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board to be represented by an attorney. This could be especially vital for an employee if English is not his or her first language.  Having a lawyer is important for non-native speakers because many workers are not being provided with an interpreter when they attend a benefits hearing.

Injured Workers Should Have Interpreters But Aren’t Always Given Access to Language Services

City Limits reported on the problems that some non-Native speakers are having when it comes to hearings before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. The troubling information regarding the problems of non-Native speakers within the workers’ comp system comes from research conducted by the Workers’ Protection Coalition, which is led by the National Center for Law and Justice.

The Workers’ Protection Coalition found that the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board was not providing “essential language access services” when necessary for an injured employee.

In fact, in more than 40 percent of all hearings in which an injured worker asked for interpretation, no interpreter was provided during the proceedings before the Board. Even more troubling, out of all of the hearings that were observed, there was not a single hearing in which the Board provided interpretation throughout the entirety of the proceedings.

Even in situations where interpretation was provided by the Board to injured workers who needed language access services, the interpreters typically were not able to adequately interpret all of the technical language that was used throughout the hearing.

It is essential for the Board to provide interpretation services that give workers a complete and comprehensive understanding of all proceedings before the Workers’ Compensation Board. This is especially important because 13 percent of the population within the state of New York has limited proficiency in English.  Workers who don’t have a full grasp of the English language are not able to take advantage of the protections that workers’ compensation is supposed to provide to them, since they cannot fully participate in hearings that take place to determine their access to vital benefits.

Since workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy system for most injured workers, and these injured workers are not able to sue employers due to employer participation in workers’ comp, these workers who aren’t proficient in English are effectively denied adequate legal remedies after they sustain injuries on-the-job.

A New York City work injury lawyer can provide representation to any injured worker and can help to ensure that injured employees understand what is occurring at a hearing, even if English is not that worker’s first language. Contact Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff today to find out what you can do to protect your rights and to find out how a legal advocate can help you to get benefits.