EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This audit was conducted to determine whether the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) is in compliance with Executive Order (EO 120), which requires that City agencies providing direct services to the public create a language access implementation plan to ensure meaningful language access to their services.

New York is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world, with more than four million foreign-born residents from more than 200 different countries.  New Yorkers come from every corner of the globe and speak over 200 different languages.  More than 75 percent of all New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home, and almost 46 percent, or 1.8 million people, are limited in English proficiency (LEP).  For these New Yorkers, interacting with City government can often be a challenge.

Local Law 73 was enacted in 2003 to enhance the ability of the City’s LEP residents to interact with City government and, more specifically, to obtain needed social services.  The law applies to four social service agencies: the Human Resources Administration; the Department of Homeless Services; the Administration for Children’s Services; and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  It requires that free language assistance services be provided for clients when they seek to obtain services at any of these agencies, as well as job centers and food stamp offices.

In July 2008, Mayor Bloomberg signed EO 120, which requires all City agencies to provide opportunities for limited English speakers to communicate with City agencies and receive public services.  EO 120 specifically requires City agencies providing direct public services to ensure meaningful access to those services to LEP persons.  To accomplish this, EO 120 requires these agencies to develop and implement agency-specific language assistance plans for LEP persons.

Audit Findings and Conclusions

The audit found that in its offices, OATH generally complied with EO 120.  Our review of OATH’s Language Access Plans from 2009 through 2015 demonstrates that OATH has made steady progress in its efforts to provide meaningful language access to the agency’s services for LEP customers at its seven business centers.  Each annual Language Access Plan described the steps that OATH has taken to provide additional services to the LEP population.  Further, the audit found that OATH generally provides direct services to its customers in the top six New York City LEP languages at its seven business centers located throughout the five boroughs, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Finally, the audit found that through a City-wide contract with Language Line Services, Inc. and other translation services, OATH has the ability to provide document translation and phone interpretation services in over 250 languages.

Audit Recommendations

The audit recommends that OATH should continue to adhere to EO 120 to ensure that it adequately meets the language needs of the communities it serves.

Agency Response

In their written response, OATH officials generally agreed with the audit and stated,

OATH has reviewed the report and the Findings and Recommendations and thanks the Office of the Comptroller for its finding that OATH complied with Executive Order 120 and provided meaningful language access to OATH’s services for LEP respondents at our seven locations. OATH will continue to give meaningful language access to our services for LEP respondents and all of our locations and continue to make strides to give access to justice to all who appear at our tribunals.