Today's Law As Amended


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AB-401 Employment Development Department: language translations.(2021-2022)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California has one of the country’s most diverse populations.
(b) According to the 2018–2021 Language Access Plan of the Employment Development Department, more than 200 languages are spoken in California, and more than 7,000,000 limited English proficient (LEP) individuals make California their home.
(c) Language barriers prevent LEP individuals from fully participating in civic life and accessing support services.
(d) As one of the largest government agencies in California, the Employment Development Department (EDD) provides a wide range of services relating to, among others, unemployment insurance, state disability insurance, and workforce investment.
(e) It is the intent of the Legislature, in enacting this legislation, to take steps to ensure that all Californians seeking to access services provided by EDD have access to those services in the languages that they are best able to understand.

SEC. 2.

 Section 316 of the Unemployment Insurance Code is amended to read:

316.
 (a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Additional languages” means the top 8 to 15 non-English and nonprimary languages used by limited English proficient adults in California according to the most recent American Community Survey by the United States Census Bureau.
(A) Whether referring to written or spoken languages, the eight additional languages in 2021 are Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Russian, Japanese, Hindi, Mon-Khmer (Cambodian), and Thai.
(B) The department shall thereafter review, evaluate, and update the list of additional languages at least every three years. In determining how many languages to include in the definition of “additional languages,” the department may consider various data sources, including, but not limited to, the United States Census Bureau, including the American Community Survey, other state and local government agencies, feedback from community-based organizations, and the department’s own data tracking measures.
(2) “Limited English proficient” means individuals who do not speak English as their primary language and who have a limited ability to read, write, understand, or speak English.
(3) “Linguistic variant” means a distinct form of a language used by people from a specific country or region.
(4) “Multilingual access portal” means the section of the department’s website that synthesizes critical website content and features all translated vital unemployment insurance documents.
(5) “Primary languages” means the top seven non-English languages used by limited English proficient adults in California according to the 2019 American Community Survey by the United States Census Bureau.
(A) When referring to written languages, the top seven languages are Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, and Armenian.
(B) When referring to spoken languages, the top seven languages are Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, and Armenian.
(6) “Vital information” means information, whether written, oral, or electronic, that is necessary for an individual to understand how to obtain any aid, benefit, service, or training or is required by law.
(b) (a)  There shall be maintained within an appropriate division of the department, a bureau, section, or unit relating to education and public instruction for the purpose of informing employers and workers of their rights and responsibilities under this code, and of instructing the public generally concerning its basic purposes, provisions, and operations. All standard information employee pamphlets concerning unemployment and disability insurance programs shall be printed in English and the primary languages. 
(b) All standard information employee pamphlets concerning unemployment and disability insurance programs shall be printed in English and any written language that is or becomes a Medi-Cal threshold language in any county, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 14029.91 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(c) Commencing July 1, 2022, the department shall provide translation by qualified human translators between English and each Medi-Cal threshold language, as described in subdivision (b), for all of the following:
(1) The active online interface and paper applications for all benefits programs administered by the department, including any requests for identity verification, whether online or via paper. This shall include any and all online interfaces and paper applications operated or received by third-party vendors that are delegated to perform specific portions of processing, such as identity verification or other examination of claims.
(2) Documents containing vital information, including, but not limited to, any forms or notices granting or denying benefits, requiring an affirmative action by the claimant, or that gives the claimant the right to request an administrative due process hearing.
(3) Any other written communications to a claimant, including communication through email or text.
(d) Any applicable translated documents described in subdivision (c) shall be transmitted directly to the claimant and available on the department’s internet website.
(e) Translations, as described in subdivision (c), shall be provided in any written language that is or becomes a Medi-Cal threshold language in any county, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 14029.91 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.
(1) If a claimant’s written language is not within those languages, upon the claimant’s request, the department shall provide the claimant with a translated document in their written language within two business days of the request. The department shall also provide translations in languages on an ad hoc basis, if the department finds it necessary to provide meaningful language access.
(2) Upon the claimant’s request, the department shall read the document aloud and orally explain the document to the claimant in their preferred language and, when possible, the appropriate variant to the target language so that the language coincides with the claimant’s preferred language variety.
(f) By July 1, 2022, the department shall undertake development of a community review process for translation of the department’s online application interface, forms and other documents and communications to ensure, among other purposes, plain language, readability, and cultural appropriateness. The community review process shall be fully implemented commencing July 1, 2024. The community review process shall include, but not be limited to, user testing and input from members of the public, local government, and community-based organizations.
(g) The department shall identify a claimant’s language needs at the earliest point of contact with the claimant. The burden of acquiring language services should not fall on a claimant who does not use English as their dominant language, and department staff shall proactively assess the needs for language services through the life of a claim for benefits or services provided to a claimant. These efforts shall include, but are not limited to, all of the following:
(c) (1)  Commencing no later than June 1, 2022, each application for unemployment insurance  Each written application for unemployment insurance, disability insurance, paid family leave, or other benefit provided by the department  shall contain a section asking the individual  claimants  to identify their preferred written and spoken or signed languages to be kept in the individual’s claims record. languages. The written materials sent by the department to the claimant shall be provided in the language indicated by the claimant on their written application. 
(2) With respect to the online portals provided via the department’s internet website, the department shall develop a mechanism to allow for the selection of spoken and written language options to be expanded on the portal by a claimant, with the option to indicate a language other than those already provided on the portal’s list. The materials sent by the department to the claimant pursuant to the online portal shall be provided to the claimant in the language the claimant has indicated.
(d) (h)  Commencing no later than January 1, 2022, the department shall provide oral   Oral  and signed language unemployment insurance services in real time  services,  by qualified interpreters or qualified bilingual staff. staff, shall be provided in all languages in real time, and if not possible, within 24 hours of the identified need or request. This includes all department interactions with a claimant, whether in person or remote. Specifically, the language services shall include, but are not limited to, the following: 
(1) Department staff who interact directly with a claimant, in person or remotely, shall have access to the claimant’s identified preferred language as described in subdivision (g) and direct access to the language interpretation options available pursuant to this section.
(1) (2)  If the department staff cannot obtain interpretation in the individual’s language and linguistic variant in real time after good faith efforts to acquire language services, the department shall provide the individual with  Each telephone or video line operator shall offer the claimant telephone or video communication in their preferred signed or spoken language choice, to ensure the claimant has access to needed services. If the telephone or video line operator cannot obtain access to an interpreter in the claimant’s language at the time of the call, the department shall ensure that the claimant receives  a return telephone or relay video  call in the individual’s language within a reasonable timeframe. claimant’s language in a compatible linguistic variant within 24 hours of the original telephone call to the department.  
(2) Upon the individual’s request, a qualified interpreter shall read the department’s documents and notices aloud in the individual’s preferred language within a reasonable timeframe.
(e) (1) Commencing no later than December 1, 2022, the department shall do all of the following:
(A) Provide dedicated phone lines for unemployment insurance claims in the primary languages in an effort to provide consistent wait times across all phone lines and collect and review data on phone usage by limited English proficient individuals.
(B) Translate static, nonpersonalized documents containing unemployment insurance vital information into the primary and additional languages.
(C) If the individual’s language is not among the primary or additional languages, then upon the individual’s request, provide the individual with translation or oral or signed interpretation of documents in their preferred language.
(2) All vital documents described in this subdivision shall be available on the department website.
(f) (3)  The department shall translate the UI Online interface in the primary languages. The department shall make the translated UI Online interface available upon completion of the translation of each primary language, ending no later than April 1, 2024. use best practices to identify appropriate interpreting services. These include confirming that the interpreter and claimant use a compatible linguistic variant and ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest or concerns about an interpreter’s competency or impartiality. If a claimant rejects the use of a specific interpreter, the department shall find a suitable replacement. 
(g) The department shall establish and host a primary language multilingual access portal for unemployment insurance. The department shall make the content available upon completion of the translation of each primary language, ending no later than February 1, 2024.
(h) (i)  Before (1)   the completion of the multilingual access portal described in subdivision (g), the department shall display both of the following The department shall make the pages  on its internet website organized and translated by language: that provide information regarding applying for, and receiving, unemployment insurance benefits available in the seven languages, other than English, most commonly used by unemployment insurance applicants and claimants. 
(1) Available translated notices and other vital documents.
(2) The appropriate department phone number or phone numbers for individuals to contact when seeking multilingual unemployment insurance services in their preferred written or spoken language.
(i) (2)  Commencing no later than March  By July  1, 2022, the department shall do  make the pages on its internet website that provide information regarding applying for, and receiving, unemployment insurance, disability insurance, and paid family leave benefits available in  all of the following: languages specified in subdivision (e). 
(1) Engage linguistically marginalized communities to assist in expanding access to available unemployment insurance programs and services, including, but not limited to, all of the following activities:
(A) Conduct targeted outreach to limited English proficient communities to solicit advice on policies and practices affecting individuals who are eligible for the department’s services and benefits.
(B) Market and promote its programs and services in the primary languages to the general public and limited English proficient communities.
(C) Establish a grant program lasting at least two years to provide funding for community-based organizations to provide outreach and education to limited English proficient communities.
(2) Employ a multilingual access coordinator and multilingual access unit to coordinate the department’s multilingual access services, provide technical assistance to department staff, and monitor the provision of multilingual access services.
(j) (3)  The department shall engage in regular data collection, monitoring, and oversight of multilingual access unemployment insurance services. The department shall annually report this data to the legislative budget committees. annually publish the total number of applications and claimants for each of the benefit programs administered under this division, including the preferred written and spoken language of the application or claimant. The report shall include information on the number and trend of applications for all of the benefit programs, and description of how applications have been resolved, including processing times, denial rates, and the basis for denials. 
(k) (j)  The provision of unemployment insurance  language services shall not cause an undue delay in receipt of services or benefits. If the department’s provision of language services unduly delays an individual’s receipt of services or benefits, the individual’s time to meet the department’s deadlines shall be extended for the period of time necessary to receive the language services. 
(l) (k)  No later than July 1, 2022, the department shall report to the legislative budget and policy committees on the status of multilingual access services to be delivered to individuals participating in the State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave programs. For purposes of this section: 
(1) “Claimant” means an applicant for or recipient of services provided by the department.
(2) “Interpreting” means using spoken or signed language to transmit a message from one language into another while preserving the meaning, register, and tone of the message.
(3) “Qualified bilingual staff” means a member of the department’s staff who has passed a formal linguistic proficiency assessment in both of their working languages.
(4) “Qualified interpreter” means a person with advanced oral or signing proficiency in their working languages, knowledge of professional practices, and adherence to the interpreter’s code of ethics, who has been determined to be qualified by a formal certifying body such as the California Judicial Council or the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters or based on experience, training, and references.
(5) “Qualified translator” means a person with advanced written proficiency in their working languages, knowledge of professional practices, and adherence to the translator’s code of ethics, who has been determined to be qualified by a formal certifying body such as the American Translators Association or based on experience, training, and references.
(6) “Translation” means using written language to transmit text from one language into another while preserving the meaning, register, and tone of the message.
(m) (l)  A report to be submitted pursuant to The provisions, protections, and prohibitions contained in  this section shall be submitted in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code. in addition to existing state and federal civil rights mandates governing language access and unlawful discrimination based on national origin, ethnic group identification, and linguistic characteristics.