1003 - Bilingual Services
Equal Employment Opportunity
- Department Directors
- Language Survey Coordinators
This policy describes state agencies’ responsibilities under the Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act (Act) and specifies requirements for compliance:
- The State requires its agencies to provide services in foreign languages when specific conditions are met.
- Public contact staff certified as bilingual in target languages and documents translated into target languages are the two primary means to provide services in foreign languages. The law also provides for additional or alternative tools.
- Agencies conduct surveys to gather required data every even-numbered year
- Data and policies relating to non-English public contacts are reported to CalHR by October 1st every even-numbered year unless agencies meet exemption requirements. Further follow-up is required for non-compliant agencies.
- Agencies subject to the Act are required to provide on their website home page a language access complaint form and instructions in all languages meeting threshold.
The Act was passed in 1973 to "provide for effective communication between all levels of government in this state and the people of this state who are precluded from utilizing public services because of language barriers.” Toward this end, the Act requires agencies to provide information and services in the languages of limited-English-proficient groups that constitute a substantial number, defined as 5% of the total contacts of any of the agencies’ offices or facilities. Agencies are required to conduct a biennial language survey, identify their bilingual program processes and procedures, and report their findings to the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) by October 1 of every even-numbered year. If an agency’s language survey identifies any deficiencies in meeting the requirements of the Act, the agency must develop an implementation plan to correct these deficiencies and provide it to CalHR by October 1 of the following odd-numbered year. CalHR compiles the information collected from the language surveys and implementation plans in a report for the Legislature. Agencies that remain deficient must continue to follow up with CalHR at six-month intervals.
The State of California requires that each of its offices provide services, equivalent to those available in English, in any non-English language spoken by four-and-a-half percent or more of the public with limited English proficiency served by that office. These services are routinely provided by employing qualified bilingual employees whose fluency in the target language has been certified. Contracting for telephone-based interpreter service is encouraged as a means of meeting language needs for limited English proficient communities that do not constitute a substantial portion of offices’ public contacts.
An employee working in a designated bilingual position is eligible for a pay differential of $100 per month. Current collective bargaining agreements specify that employees serving in positions that have not been designated as bilingual may not be required to use bilingual skills, whether or not those employees have been certified as bilingual. In order to designate a position as bilingual, the employee must first document that 10% of work time is spent in usage of the non-English language. That employee's supervisor must then follow agency procedures to approve the designation.
When four-and-one-half percent or more of the public to which an office provides services speaks a particular non-English language and has limited English proficiency, the agency must translate all written materials distributed to the public by that office into that non-English language and must distribute them through all offices providing the same services; however, the agency may as an alternative provide translation aids or on-demand translations by qualified bilingual staff in excess of the number required to provide English-equivalent services.
Each agency not meeting exemption requirements (described in the “Application” section following) must conduct a language survey over the course of ten days during even numbered years. Agencies with outstanding deficiencies at conclusion of the language survey must file an implementation plan during the subsequent odd-numbered year. If deficiencies remain following the implementation plan phase, agencies must follow up with CalHR at 6-month intervals. If agency plans are not sufficient to achieve compliance, CalHR is required to issue orders that that will bring about compliance.
Each state agency must make Language Access Complaint instructions and forms available on the home page of its website and in all its offices. These forms and processes must be available in all languages spoken by 4.5% or more of the limited-English-proficient public served by any of the agency’s offices
CalHR also maintains a Language Access Complaint line at 1-866-889-3278. If limited-English-proficient persons are not provided services in their native language at any state office, they may record a complaint at this number, with instructions provided in Armenian, Arabic, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and English. CalHR will then contact the complainant with an interpreter and arrange for service provision from the appropriate agency.
Each state agency subject to the act must conduct a language survey, due October 1 in even-numbered years. Each state agency whose survey shows outstanding deficiencies following the Language Survey must complete an Implementation Plan, due October 1 in odd-numbered years. Agencies that have not resolved compliance deficiencies by the culmination of the Implementation Plan must follow up with CalHR at six month intervals until all deficiencies are resolved.
Conducting the Language Survey
Each agency subject to the Act must appoint a Language Survey Coordinator to oversee conducting of the agency’s language survey, which occurs over the course of ten days selected by the agency, which need not be consecutive, and to direct resolution of any identified deficiencies. (Large agencies and those with delegated testing authority may have a dedicated Bilingual Services Coordinator distinct from the Language Survey Coordinator.) All agency public contact employees must identify the languages spoken by all public contacts during the ten days designated for the survey. Agencies must conduct the survey using form CalHR-783 except those agencies with internal populations or live-in clients, which must additionally use form CalHR-784.
Language Survey data must be entered into CalHR’s Language Survey and Implementation Plan (LSIP) online system. Each agency should have one Master User with authority to finalize the submission, and any number of Reporting Assistants with authority to enter data for units within a particular reporting group. Training materials are available via the LSIP system page, and CalHR’s Bilingual Services Program can be reached via the program email box for technical questions (see references below). Form CalHR-775, the Bilingual Services Implementation Plan Transmittal Form, is to be submitted concurrently with the Implementation Plan.
Agencies may request an exemption via form CalHR-776 if either of the following is true:
- The agency's primary mission does not include responsibility for furnishing information or rendering services to the public.
- The agency has consistently received such limited public contact with the non-English speaking public that it has not been required to employ bilingual staff under Government Code section 7292, and the agency employs fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time employees in public contact positions.
Once the survey has been completed, employee bilingual fluency testing is the primary means for agencies to eliminate bilingual position deficiencies identified during the survey.
Language Proficiency Testing Standards
Any state agency may directly or by contract develop and provide language proficiency testing, providing that examination development, maintenance and testing are conducted in accordance with ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing Materials) Standard F2889, which "describes best practices for the development and use of tests in the modalities of speaking, listening, reading, and writing for assessing ability according to the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale." The standard is available via ASTM's website.
The State Personnel Board (SPB) will evaluate documentation of language examination development and use during compliance reviews.
Language Proficiency Scoring - Bilingual Position Qualification
To serve in a designated bilingual position and receive the associated pay differential, an employee must score in the testing language at least equivalent to "2" in Listening and Speaking on the ILR scale. Where positions require reading, writing, or more advanced or specialized skill in the testing language, agencies should require additional testing as appropriate.
Based on information from the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), CalHR has determined the following to be equivalent to scores of "2" in Listening and Speaking on the ILR scale:
a score of "Advanced Low" in Oral Proficiency on the ACTFL scale;
or a score of B1.2 in Listening and a score of B2.1 in Speaking on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR) scale.
Language Proficiency Scoring - Examination Evaluators
To serve as a proctor (conducting tests) or a rater (evaluating test results) in departmental fluency testing of other employees, an employee must score equivalent to at least "3" in Listening, Reading and Speaking on the ILR scale. Agencies with more stringent testing needs should adjust this requirement upwards as appropriate.
Based on information from ACTFL, CalHR has determined the following to be equivalent to scores of "3" in Listening, Reading and Speaking on the ILR scale:
scores of "Superior" in Reading and Oral Proficiency on the ACTFL scale;
or scores of C1.2 in Listening and Reading and a score of C2 in Speaking on the CEFR scale.
Language Proficiency Examination Frequency
Beginning in the year 2024, in order to maintain qualification to serve in a bilingual position and receive bilingual pay, all employees scoring below the equivalent of ILR scores of "3" in speaking and listening must have on file test scores not older than five (5) years. CalHR recommends that beginning in 2019, agencies re-test 20% of certified employees annually in preparation for the 2024 requirement.
Proficiency Testing Limitations
Language proficiency alone (fluency, reading, and writing testing) does not qualify an employee to translate written materials or to serve as a formal interpreter.
Translation and Interpreting Standards
To translate written materials on behalf of a state agency, an employee or contractor should hold certification through the American Translators Association (ATA) or a documented equivalent. This requirement is also met via a Bachelor's Degree in Translation and Interpretation from an ATA approved school. (See Resources)
Interpreting is bridging the language barrier between two other parties conversing with one another.
In accordance with Government Code section 11435.05 et seq., interpreters for state adjudicative proceedings must be contracted from CalHR's Administrative Hearing and Medical Interpreter List (see resources) or from the state Court Interpreters Program (see resources) except for hearings of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, which recognizes status conferred by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.
To interpret in any other circumstance (for instance, a board meeting) it should suffice to use any ATA-recognized Credentialed Interpreter, who holds a certification conferred by any entity listed at in the ATA Credentialed Interpreter Standards site (see resources) or who holds a Translation and Interpretation degree from an ATA approved school.
American Sign Language
To serve as a sign language interpreter, an employee or a contractor must possess a current and valid certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) at the level of Certificate of Interpretation (CI), Certificate of Transliteration (CT), or CI and CT (Certificate of Interpretation and Certificate of Transliteration); or must have a current and valid membership with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) at the Level of Generalist (III); Advanced (Level IV); or Master (Level V).
ECOS Language Record Administration
Administrative access to Language Records in CalHR's Examination and Certification Online System (ECOS) will be granted to existing departmental ECOS administrators, who may delegate access in accordance with department policies and CalHR guidelines. To arrange for entry of language proficiency examination results, please contact your ECOS administrator. Instructions for managing Language Records appear as item "I-009" in the ECOS "How To's" area. Departments must enter employee certification results into ECOS and make them available upon request to SPB for compliance review purposes.
Bilingual Position Designation
While passing a language fluency examination demonstrates that an employee is qualified to receive a bilingual pay differential, in order to do so, s/he must be serving in a designated bilingual position.
To designate a position as bilingual, an agency must complete a Bilingual Pay Authorization Form, STD 897.
The pay differential goes into effect once the agency’s Personnel Office keys the appropriate Personnel Action Request.
Language Testing Costs
Under the following conditions, testing must be paid for by the agency:
the agency has determined that, within the local or statewide office or facility to which the employee is assigned, the target language population meets the definition of "substantial number of non-English-speaking people" as defined in Government Code section 7296.2;
the agency has determined that an employee's position requires 10% or more use of the target language; OR
the agency is subject to Federal law or regulation requiring provision of language service in the target language and the employee will be called upon to serve as primary or backup to provide this service, regardless of whether the employee's position requires 10% or more use of the target language.
Under the following conditions, testing may be paid for by the agency at its own discretion:
the agency anticipates a future need to provide non-English service and has identified an employee to provide service at that time; however, conditions requiring agency payment, as described above, do not yet apply;
the agency has selected a qualified applicant for a bilingual-required position and has made a tentative job offer pending completion of language testing.
Under the following conditions, an agency should not pay for testing:
an employee speaks a non-English language and seeks a bilingual pay differential, but none of the public whom the agency serves speaks the non-English language in which the employee desires certification;
the agency is trying to fill a bilingual-required position and desires to determine which candidates will pass the test before making an offer.
- Office of Civil Rights: Frequently Asked Questions
- CalHR 775: Language Survey and Implementation Plan Submittal Verification
- CalHR 776: Language Survey and Implementation Plan Request for Exemption
- CalHR 783: Public Contact Information and Language Survey Tally Sheet
- CalHR 784: Language Survey Internal Population and Certified Staff Counts
- PML 2014-052: PML 2014-052 - 12/30/2014 - Dymally-Alatorre Bilingual Services Act - Amendments
- 1702: Arduous Pay
- American Translators' Association Approved Schools: List of Approved Translation and Interpreting Schools
- American Translators' Association Credentialed Interpreter Standards: Credentialled Interpreter Designation
- ASTM Standard F2889: Standard Practice for Assessing Language Proficiency
- CalHR Adjudicative Interpreter List: Administrative Hearing and Medical Interpreter Listing
- California Court Interpreter List: Search for an Interpreter
- LSIP: CalHR’s Language Survey and Implementation Plan (LSIP) online system
Staff Services Manager I, Office of Civil Rights
Chief, Executive Office