Lawsuit demands drugstores hire bilingual interpreters

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).

5 Comments

  • I realize the libertarian-minded don’t oppose open borders/open immigration, but here’s a pretty clear example of a way in which our new Tower of Babel drives up costs. The lawsuit is pretty groundless, clearly, but even in the absence of litigation, there are heavy costs brought on by the fact that nobody speaks the same language: lost efficiency, duplicated services, disappointed expectations, blood pressures raised by frustration, etc. But never mind. Anyone advocating for ethnic, racial or linguistic homogeneity will immediately come in for serious bruising.

  • Honestly, I think comparing the desire for everyone to be able to understand each other in a country with a desire for ethnic or racial homogeneity is absurd.

  • Perhaps the United States should stop inviting immigrants who cannot understand “Take one pill each day”.

    Also, I’d be shocked (!!) to learn that the plaintiffs have some kind of financial stake in the interpreting/translating business.

  • “Honestly, I think comparing the desire for everyone to be able to understand each other in a country with a desire for ethnic or racial homogeneity is absurd.”

    So do I, and yet it is absolutely the standard practice. Sad, sick, pathetic… and normal. :-/

  • Obviously it’s impossible for the pharmacies to supply translators for all those languages. The customers should bring their own if they need help.