Immigrant advocacy groups are filing a complaint with the New York attorney general’s office naming 16 pharmacies in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, claiming “that federal civil rights law and state health regulations require pharmacies to provide linguistic help” to “people who speak little or no English”. “That assistance should include interpreters at pharmacies and written translations of medication instructions, the advocates say.” The advocacy groups are New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, the New York Immigration Coalition and Make the Road New York.
It seems a creative reinterpretation of “national origin discrimination” has been going on for some time:
Health advocates have increasingly used federal civil rights law to push hospitals, nursing homes and clinics to provide language services. Language barriers to health services constitute discrimination based on national origin, they argue, a violation of federal civil rights law, which applies to hospitals because they receive federal funds through Medicare and other programs.
The latest effort aims to expand similar requirements to pharmacies.
As of the year 2000, according to one report, 138 languages were known to be spoken in the borough of Queens alone. (Anne Barnard, “Non-English Speakers Charge Bias in Prescription Labeling”, New York Times, Oct. 31).