LEP Cases

Title VI, Title VIII and combinations of both titles

These cases illustrate situations where housing providers failed to comply with Title VI and/or Title VIII and serve as object lessons. The intent is that housing providers might learn from the mistakes of others and independently adjust policies and procedures to appropriately serve those that are limited English proficient.

Title VI Case – Federally-assisted activity

Four Massachusetts housing authorities
Case Numbers:  01-16-4200-6; 01-16-4279; 01-16-4280-6; 01-16-428 1-6

This case brought by the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center against the Northampton Housing Authority, the West Springfield Housing Authority, the Greenfield Housing Authority and the Westfield Housing Authority.  These housing authorities manage federally-assisted housing.  The complaint alleged National Origin discrimination by 1) treating Hispanic Spanish-speaking applicants less favorably than White English-speaking applicants; and, 2) denying language assistance to Spanish-speaking persons.

Key findings:

  • $6000 granted in relief for attorney’s fees.

Additional relief was granted in the public interest that required the housing authorities to:

  • Participate in training, discussing their LEP accommodation process;
  • Display a sign indicating a person’s right to an interpreter;
  • Have available “I speak…” cards to assist in identifying a person’s language;
  • Log any interpretation or translation services provided (including the name of the person need the service, their language, the name of the staff member assisting the LEP person, the documents provided);
  • Provide a supply of easily accessible applications in both English and Spanish in the office, as well as, standard and emergency forms of the state-aided voucher programs in the six languages in which they are available;
  • Make a notation of language preference in tenant files so that it is apparent to any staff member;
  • Establish a Language Access Plan that includes a Language Needs Assessment;
  • Offer in-person interpretation provided by staff in target languages or over-the-phone interpretation services;
  • Prohibit the use of internet translation services to translate certain important documents;
  • Strictly limit the use of internet translation services to simplest communication.
  • Offer oral interpretation to LEP persons in their primary language;
  • Never require or encourage LEP persons to use family, friends, neighbors, or any other informal interpreters;
  • Never use a minor child as an interpreter except in emergencies;
  • Provide language services whenever the LEP client shows a limited understanding of receptive or expressive English language skills;
  • Provide neutral interpreters at all grievance hearings or meetings;
  • All notices and documents for hearings and adverse actions will inform the applicants and/or tenants of their right to a qualified interpreter at no cost;
  • Train all staff to the Language Access Plan and how to respond to requests for interpretation, etc.; and,
  • Complete certain actions within a specified time along with reporting requirements.

Title VI case – federally-assisted activity

Jacksonville (FL) Housing Authority (2012) 04-08-1733-6
A LEP tenant failed to recertify income, was terminated, & didn’t know appeal rights. All communication was in English. JHA agreed to adopt Language Needs Assessment and Language Access Plan, train staff, and do outreach.  $25,000

Title VI & Title VIII case – federally-assisted activity

Hazelton (PA) Housing Authority (2015) 03-14-0361-8/6 et al
Agreement to settle that HHA, despite having a Language Access Plan, was not providing language assistance.  $14,000 to complainants + $4000 attorney fees

Title VIII case – conventional activity

Virginia Realty Co of Tidewater (2013) 03-11-0424-8
Denied LEP person a rental application.  Adopt non-discrimination policy & Limited English Proficiency Plan, train staff, do outreach.  $75,000

Title VIII case – conventional activity

Page Edmunds III (2015) MN District Court Case No. 0:15-cv-02705
Landlord refused to rent to Hmong family with a member perceived to be LEP + retaliation.  The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit in federal court (U.S. vs Page Edmunds III). $5000