New York—The Chinese Staff and Workers Association and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) announced today a settlement of a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Labor (DOL). The federal lawsuit (Chinese Staff and Workers Association v. New York State Department of Labor, et al) was filed in 1999 and alleged DOLs closing of unemployment insurance offices which served Chinese applicants in their native dialects violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The parties agreed to a court order keeping open two offices to serve Chinese speakers until DOL’s new phone-in system could serve claimants in Chinese.
Under the court approved settlement, DOL’s phone system has intake personnel who can speak Cantonese and Mandarin, and other Chinese dialects can be accommodated through outside translators. In addition, DOL will provide the claimants manuals and other unemployment insurance forms in Chinese as well as Chinese-language interpreters at administrative hearings. Last year, approximately 4,000 unemployment insurance applicants indicated to the DOL that they preferred to obtain information in Chinese.
“This settlement agreement is the result of years of meetings and negotiations with the Department of Labor,” said Ken Kimerling, AALDEF legal director. “We are glad that Chinese speakers will be able to apply for and access their benefits in Chinese, and AALDEF will work with Chinese Staff and Workers Association to monitor any problems in the implementation of the new system.”
As the new system is phased in, Chinese-speaking claimants may continue to file new unemployment insurance claims in person at 250 Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn until Friday, December 15, 2006. Claimants may continue to receive assistance at 138-60 Barclay Avenue in Flushing until Friday, March 2, 2007.
Individuals filing a new claim or those who have a question about a previously submitted claim should call toll-free to 1-888-209-8124. Callers will be given the option to follow Chinese language voice prompts to speak to someone in Cantonese or Mandarin.
If any Chinese speakers any encounter problems with the New York State unemployment insurance system, they should notify the Chinese Staff and Workers Association at (212) 334-2333.